Francis Scrymgeour, a clerk in the Bank of Scotland at Edinburgh,
had attained the age of twenty-five in a sphere of quiet,
creditable, and domestic life. His mother died while he was young;
but his father, a man of sense and probity, had given him an
excellent education at school, and brought him up at home to
orderly and frugal habits. Francis, who was of a docile and
affectionate disposition, profited by these advantages with zeal,
and devoted himself heart and soul to his employment. A walk upon
Saturday afternoon, an occasional dinner with members of his
family, and a yearly tour of a fortnight in the Highlands or even
on the continent of Europe, were his principal distractions, and,
he grew rapidly in favour with his superiors, and enjoyed already a
salary of nearly two hundred pounds a year, with the prospect of an
ultimate advance to almost double that amount. Few young men were
more contented, few more willing and laborious than Francis
Scrymgeour. Sometimes at night, when he had read the daily paper,
he would play upon the flute to amuse his father, for whose
qualities he entertained a great respect.
One day he received a note from a well-known firm of Writers to the
Signet, requesting the favour of an immediate interview with him.
The letter was marked "Private and Confidential," and had been
addressed to him at the bank, instead of at home - two unusual
circumstances which made him obey the summons with the more
alacrity. The senior member of the firm, a man of much austerity
of manner, made him gravely welcome, requested him to take a seat,
and proceeded to explain the matter in hand in the picked
expressions of a veteran man of business. A person, who must
remain nameless, but of whom the lawyer had every reason to think
well - a man, in short, of some station in the country - desired to
make Francis an annual allowance of five hundred pounds. The
capital was to be placed under the control of the lawyer's firm and
two trustees who must also remain anonymous. There were conditions
annexed to this liberality, but he was of opinion that his new
client would find nothing either excessive or dishonourable in the
terms; and he repeated these two words with emphasis, as though he
desired to commit himself to nothing more.
Francis asked their nature.
"The conditions," said the Writer to the Signet, "are, as I have
twice remarked, neither dishonourable nor excessive. At the same
time I cannot conceal from you that they are most unusual. Indeed,
the whole case is very much out of our way; and I should certainly
have refused it had it not been for the reputation of the gentleman
who entrusted it to my care, and, let me add, Mr. Scrymgeour, the
interest I have been led to take in yourself by many complimentary
and, I have no doubt, well-deserved reports."
Francis entreated him to be more specific.
"You cannot picture my uneasiness as to these conditions," he said.
"They are two," replied the lawyer, "only two; and the sum, as you
will remember, is five hundred a-year - and unburdened, I forgot to
And the lawyer raised his eyebrows at him with solemn gusto.
"The first," he resumed, "is of remarkable simplicity. You must be
in Paris by the afternoon of Sunday, the 15th; there you will find,
at the box-office of the Comedie Francaise, a ticket for admission
taken in your name and waiting you. You are requested to sit out
the whole performance in the seat provided, and that is all."
"I should certainly have preferred a week-day," replied Francis. "
But, after all, once in a way - "
"And in Paris, my dear sir," added the lawyer soothingly. "I
believe I am something of a precisian myself, but upon such a
consideration, and in Paris, I should not hesitate an instant."
And the pair laughed pleasantly together.
"The other is of more importance," continued the Writer to the
Signet. "It regards your marriage. My client, taking a deep
interest in your welfare, desires to advise you absolutely in the
choice of a wife. Absolutely, you understand," he repeated.
"Let us be more explicit, if you please," returned Francis. "Am I
to marry any one, maid or widow, black or white, whom this
invisible person chooses to propose?"
"I was to assure you that suitability of age and position should be
a principle with your benefactor," replied the lawyer. "As to
race, I confess the difficulty had not occurred to me, and I failed
to inquire; but if you like I will make a note of it at once, and
advise you on the earliest opportunity."
"Sir," said Francis, "it remains to be seen whether this whole
affair is not a most unworthy fraud. The circumstances are
inexplicable - I had almost said incredible; and until I see a
little more daylight, and some plausible motive, I confess I should
be very sorry to put a hand to the transaction. I appeal to you in
this difficulty for information. I must learn what is at the
bottom of it all. If you do not know, cannot guess, or are not at
liberty to tell me, I shall take my hat and go back to my bank as
"I do not know," answered the lawyer, "but I have an excellent
guess. Your father, and no one else, is at the root of this
apparently unnatural business."
"My father!" cried Francis, in extreme disdain. "Worthy man, I
know every thought of his mind, every penny of his fortune!"
"You misinterpret my words," said the lawyer. "I do not refer to
Mr. Scrymgeour, senior; for he is not your father. When he and his
wife came to Edinburgh, you were already nearly one year old, and
you had not yet been three months in their care. The secret has
been well kept; but such is the fact. Your father is unknown, and
I say again that I believe him to be the original of the offers I
am charged at present to transmit to you."
It would be impossible to exaggerate the astonishment of Francis
Scrymgeour at this unexpected information. He pled this confusion
to the lawyer.
"Sir," said he, "after a piece of news so startling, you must grant
me some hours for thought. You shall know this evening what
conclusion I have reached."
The lawyer commended his prudence; and Francis, excusing himself
upon some pretext at the bank, took a long walk into the country,
and fully considered the different steps and aspects of the case.
A pleasant sense of his own importance rendered him the more
deliberate: but the issue was from the first not doubtful. His
whole carnal man leaned irresistibly towards the five hundred a
year, and the strange conditions with which it was burdened; he
discovered in his heart an invincible repugnance to the name of
Scrymgeour, which he had never hitherto disliked; he began to
despise the narrow and unromantic interests of his former life; and
when once his mind was fairly made up, he walked with a new feeling
of strength and freedom, and nourished himself with the gayest
He said but a word to the lawyer, and immediately received a cheque
for two quarters' arrears; for the allowance was ante-dated from
the first of January. With this in his pocket, he walked home.
The flat in Scotland Street looked mean in his eyes; his nostrils,
for the first time, rebelled against the odour of broth; and he
observed little defects of manner in his adoptive father which
filled him with surprise and almost with disgust. The next day, he
determined, should see him on his way to Paris.
In that city, where he arrived long before the appointed date, he
put up at a modest hotel frequented by English and Italians, and
devoted himself to improvement in the French tongue; for this
purpose he had a master twice a week, entered into conversation
with loiterers in the Champs Elysees, and nightly frequented the
theatre. He had his whole toilette fashionably renewed; and was
shaved and had his hair dressed every morning by a barber in a
neighbouring street. This gave him something of a foreign air, and
seemed to wipe off the reproach of his past years.
At length, on the Saturday afternoon, he betook himself to the box-
office of the theatre in the Rue Richelieu. No sooner had he
mentioned his name than the clerk produced the order in an envelope
of which the address was scarcely dry.
"It has been taken this moment," said the clerk.
"Indeed!" said Francis. "May I ask what the gentleman was like?"
"Your friend is easy to describe," replied the official. "He is
old and strong and beautiful, with white hair and a sabre-cut
across his face. You cannot fail to recognise so marked a person."
"No, indeed," returned Francis; "and I thank you for your
"He cannot yet be far distant," added the clerk. "If you make
haste you might still overtake him."
Francis did not wait to be twice told; he ran precipitately from
the theatre into the middle of the street and looked in all
directions. More than one white-haired man was within sight; but
though he overtook each of them in succession, all wanted the
sabre-cut. For nearly half-an-hour he tried one street after
another in the neighbourhood, until at length, recognising the
folly of continued search, he started on a walk to compose his
agitated feelings; for this proximity of an encounter with him to
whom he could not doubt he owed the day had profoundly moved the
It chanced that his way lay up the Rue Drouot and thence up the Rue
des Martyrs; and chance, in this case, served him better than all
the forethought in the world. For on the outer boulevard he saw
two men in earnest colloquy upon a seat. One was dark, young, and
handsome, secularly dressed, but with an indelible clerical stamp;
the other answered in every particular to the description given him
by the clerk. Francis felt his heart beat high in his bosom; he
knew he was now about to hear the voice of his father; and making a
wide circuit, he noiselessly took his place behind the couple in
question, who were too much interested in their talk to observe
much else. As Francis had expected, the conversation was conducted
in the English language
"Your suspicions begin to annoy me, Rolles," said the older man.
"I tell you I am doing my utmost; a man cannot lay his hand on
millions in a moment. Have I not taken you up, a mere stranger,
out of pure good-will? Are you not living largely on my bounty?"
"On your advances, Mr. Vandeleur," corrected the other.
"Advances, if you choose; and interest instead of goodwill, if you
prefer it," returned Vandeleur angrily. "I am not here to pick
expressions. Business is business; and your business, let me
remind you, is too muddy for such airs. Trust me, or leave me
alone and find some one else; but let us have an end, for God's
sake, of your jeremiads."
"I am beginning to learn the world," replied the other, "and I see
that you have every reason to play me false, and not one to deal
honestly. I am not here to pick expressions either; you wish the
diamond for yourself; you know you do - you dare not deny it. Have
you not already forged my name, and searched my lodging in my
absence? I understand the cause of your delays; you are lying in
wait; you are the diamond hunter, forsooth; and sooner or later, by
fair means or foul, you'll lay your hands upon it. I tell you, it
must stop; push me much further and I promise you a surprise."
"It does not become you to use threats," returned Vandeleur. "Two
can play at that. My brother is here in Paris; the police are on
the alert; and if you persist in wearying me with your
caterwauling, I will arrange a little astonishment for you, Mr.
Rolles. But mine shall be once and for all. Do you understand, or
would you prefer me to tell it you in Hebrew? There is an end to
all things, and you have come to the end of my patience. Tuesday,
at seven; not a day, not an hour sooner, not the least part of a
second, if it were to save your life. And if you do not choose to
wait, you may go to the bottomless pit for me, and welcome."
And so saying, the Dictator arose from the bench, and marched off
in the direction of Montmartre, shaking his head and swinging his
cane with a most furious air; while his companion remained where he
was, in an attitude of great dejection.
Francis was at the pitch of surprise and horror; his sentiments had
been shocked to the last degree; the hopeful tenderness with which
he had taken his place upon the bench was transformed into
repulsion and despair; old Mr. Scrymgeour, he reflected, was a far
more kindly and creditable parent than this dangerous and violent
intriguer; but he retained his presence of mind, and suffered not a
moment to elapse before he was on the trail of the Dictator.
That gentleman's fury carried him forward at a brisk pace, and he
was so completely occupied in his angry thoughts that he never so
much as cast a look behind him till he reached his own door.
His house stood high up in the Rue Lepic, commanding a view of all
Paris and enjoying the pure air of the heights. It was two storeys
high, with green blinds and shutters; and all the windows looking
on the street were hermetically closed. Tops of trees showed over
the high garden wall, and the wall was protected by CHEVAUX-DE-
FRISE. The Dictator paused a moment while he searched his pocket
for a key; and then, opening a gate, disappeared within the
Francis looked about him; the neighbourhood was very lonely, the
house isolated in its garden. It seemed as if his observation must
here come to an abrupt end. A second glance, however, showed him a
tall house next door presenting a gable to the garden, and in this
gable a single window. He passed to the front and saw a ticket
offering unfurnished lodgings by the month; and, on inquiry, the
room which commanded the Dictator's garden proved to be one of
those to let. Francis did not hesitate a moment; he took the room,
paid an advance upon the rent, and returned to his hotel to seek
The old man with the sabre-cut might or might not be his father; he
might or he might not be upon the true scent; but he was certainly
on the edge of an exciting mystery, and he promised himself that he
would not relax his observation until he had got to the bottom of
From the window of his new apartment Francis Scrymgeour commanded a
complete view into the garden of the house with the green blinds.
Immediately below him a very comely chestnut with wide boughs
sheltered a pair of rustic tables where people might dine in the
height of summer. On all sides save one a dense vegetation
concealed the soil; but there, between the tables and the house, he
saw a patch of gravel walk leading from the verandah to the garden-
gate. Studying the place from between the boards of the Venetian
shutters, which he durst not open for fear of attracting attention,
Francis observed but little to indicate the manners of the
inhabitants, and that little argued no more than a close reserve
and a taste for solitude. The garden was conventual, the house had
the air of a prison. The green blinds were all drawn down upon the
outside; the door into the verandah was closed; the garden, as far
as he could see it, was left entirely to itself in the evening
sunshine. A modest curl of smoke from a single chimney alone
testified to the presence of living people.
In order that he might not be entirely idle, and to give a certain
colour to his way of life, Francis had purchased Euclid's Geometry
in French, which he set himself to copy and translate on the top of
his portmanteau and seated on the floor against the wall; for he
was equally without chair or table. From time to time he would
rise and cast a glance into the enclosure of the house with the
green blinds; but the windows remained obstinately closed and the
Only late in the evening did anything occur to reward his continued
attention. Between nine and ten the sharp tinkle of a bell aroused
him from a fit of dozing; and he sprang to his observatory in time
to hear an important noise of locks being opened and bars removed,
and to see Mr. Vandeleur, carrying a lantern and clothed in a
flowing robe of black velvet with a skull-cap to match, issue from
under the verandah and proceed leisurely towards the garden gate.
The sound of bolts and bars was then repeated; and a moment after
Francis perceived the Dictator escorting into the house, in the
mobile light of the lantern, an individual of the lowest and most
Half-an-hour afterwards the visitor was reconducted to the street;
and Mr. Vandeleur, setting his light upon one of the rustic tables,
finished a cigar with great deliberation under the foliage of the
chestnut. Francis, peering through a clear space among the leaves,
was able to follow his gestures as he threw away the ash or enjoyed
a copious inhalation; and beheld a cloud upon the old man's brow
and a forcible action of the lips, which testified to some deep and
probably painful train of thought. The cigar was already almost at
an end, when the voice of a young girl was heard suddenly crying
the hour from the interior of the house.
"In a moment," replied John Vandeleur.
And, with that, he threw away the stump and, taking up the lantern,
sailed away under the verandah for the night. As soon as the door
was closed, absolute darkness fell upon the house; Francis might
try his eyesight as much as he pleased, he could not detect so much
as a single chink of light below a blind; and he concluded, with
great good sense, that the bed-chambers were all upon the other
Early the next morning (for he was early awake after an
uncomfortable night upon the floor), he saw cause to adopt a
different explanation. The blinds rose, one after another, by
means of a spring in the interior, and disclosed steel shutters
such as we see on the front of shops; these in their turn were
rolled up by a similar contrivance; and for the space of about an
hour, the chambers were left open to the morning air. At the end
of that time Mr. Vandeleur, with his own hand, once more closed the
shutters and replaced the blinds from within.
While Francis was still marvelling at these precautions, the door
opened and a young girl came forth to look about her in the garden.
It was not two minutes before she re-entered the house, but even in
that short time he saw enough to convince him that she possessed
the most unusual attractions. His curiosity was not only highly
excited by this incident, but his spirits were improved to a still
more notable degree. The alarming manners and more than equivocal
life of his father ceased from that moment to prey upon his mind;
from that moment he embraced his new family with ardour; and
whether the young lady should prove his sister or his wife, he felt
convinced she was an angel in disguise. So much was this the case
that he was seized with a sudden horror when he reflected how
little he really knew, and how possible it was that he had followed
the wrong person when he followed Mr. Vandeleur.
The porter, whom he consulted, could afford him little information;
but, such as it was, it had a mysterious and questionable sound.
The person next door was an English gentleman of extraordinary
wealth, and proportionately eccentric in his tastes and habits. He
possessed great collections, which he kept in the house beside him;
and it was to protect these that he had fitted the place with steel
shutters, elaborate fastenings, and CHEVAUX-DE-FRISE along the
garden wall. He lived much alone, in spite of some strange
visitors with whom, it seemed, he had business to transact; and
there was no one else in the house, except Mademoiselle and an old
"Is Mademoiselle his daughter?" inquired Francis.
"Certainly," replied the porter. "Mademoiselle is the daughter of
the house; and strange it is to see how she is made to work. For
all his riches, it is she who goes to market; and every day in the
week you may see her going by with a basket on her arm."
"And the collections?" asked the other.
"Sir," said the man, "they are immensely valuable. More I cannot
tell you. Since M. de Vandeleur's arrival no one in the quarter
has so much as passed the door."
"Suppose not," returned Francis, "you must surely have some notion
what these famous galleries contain. Is it pictures, silks,
statues, jewels, or what?"
"My faith, sir," said the fellow with a shrug, "it might be
carrots, and still I could not tell you. How should I know? The
house is kept like a garrison, as you perceive."
And then as Francis was returning disappointed to his room, the
porter called him back.
"I have just remembered, sir," said he. "M. de Vandeleur has been
in all parts of the world, and I once heard the old woman declare
that he had brought many diamonds back with him. If that be the
truth, there must be a fine show behind those shutters."
By an early hour on Sunday Francis was in his place at the theatre.
The seat which had been taken for him was only two or three numbers
from the left-hand side, and directly opposite one of the lower
boxes. As the seat had been specially chosen there was doubtless
something to be learned from its position; and he judged by an
instinct that the box upon his right was, in some way or other, to
be connected with the drama in which he ignorantly played a part.
Indeed, it was so situated that its occupants could safely observe
him from beginning to end of the piece, if they were so minded;
while, profiting by the depth, they could screen themselves
sufficiently well from any counter-examination on his side. He
promised himself not to leave it for a moment out of sight; and
whilst he scanned the rest of the theatre, or made a show of
attending to the business of the stage, he always kept a corner of
an eye upon the empty box.
The second act had been some time in progress, and was even drawing
towards a close, when the door opened and two persons entered and
ensconced themselves in the darkest of the shade. Francis could
hardly control his emotion. It was Mr. Vandeleur and his daughter.
The blood came and went in his arteries and veins with stunning
activity; his ears sang; his head turned. He dared not look lest
he should awake suspicion; his play-bill, which he kept reading
from end to end and over and over again, turned from white to red
before his eyes; and when he cast a glance upon the stage, it
seemed incalculably far away, and he found the voices and gestures
of the actors to the last degree impertinent and absurd.
From time to time he risked a momentary look in the direction which
principally interested him; and once at least he felt certain that
his eyes encountered those of the young girl. A shock passed over
his body, and he saw all the colours of the rainbow. What would he
not have given to overhear what passed between the Vandeleurs?
What would he not have given for the courage to take up his opera-
glass and steadily inspect their attitude and expression? There,
for aught he knew, his whole life was being decided - and he not
able to interfere, not able even to follow the debate, but
condemned to sit and suffer where he was, in impotent anxiety.
At last the act came to an end. The curtain fell, and the people
around him began to leave their places, for the interval. It was
only natural that he should follow their example; and if he did so,
it was not only natural but necessary that he should pass
immediately in front of the box in question. Summoning all his
courage, but keeping his eyes lowered, Francis drew near the spot.
His progress was slow, for the old gentleman before him moved with
incredible deliberation, wheezing as he went. What was he to do?
Should he address the Vandeleurs by name as he went by? Should he
take the flower from his button-hole and throw it into the box?
Should he raise his face and direct one long and affectionate look
upon the lady who was either his sister or his betrothed? As he
found himself thus struggling among so many alternatives, he had a
vision of his old equable existence in the bank, and was assailed
by a thought of regret for the past.
By this time he had arrived directly opposite the box; and although
he was still undetermined what to do or whether to do anything, he
turned his head and lifted his eyes. No sooner had he done so than
he uttered a cry of disappointment and remained rooted to the spot.
The box was empty. During his slow advance Mr. Vandeleur and his
daughter had quietly slipped away.
A polite person in his rear reminded him that he was stopping the
path; and he moved on again with mechanical footsteps, and suffered
the crowd to carry him unresisting out of the theatre. Once in the
street, the pressure ceasing, he came to a halt, and the cool night
air speedily restored him to the possession of his faculties. He
was surprised to find that his head ached violently, and that he
remembered not one word of the two acts which he had witnessed. As
the excitement wore away, it was succeeded by an overweening
appetite for sleep, and he hailed a cab and drove to his lodging in
a state of extreme exhaustion and some disgust of life.
Next morning he lay in wait for Miss Vandeleur on her road to
market, and by eight o'clock beheld her stepping down a lane. She
was simply, and even poorly, attired; but in the carriage of her
head and body there was something flexible and noble that would
have lent distinction to the meanest toilette. Even her basket, so
aptly did she carry it, became her like an ornament. It seemed to
Francis, as he slipped into a doorway, that the sunshine followed
and the shadows fled before her as she walked; and he was
conscious, for the first time, of a bird singing in a cage above
He suffered her to pass the doorway, and then, coming forth once
more, addressed her by name from behind. "Miss Vandeleur," said
She turned and, when she saw who he was, became deadly pale.
"Pardon me," he continued; "Heaven knows I had no will to startle
you; and, indeed, there should be nothing startling in the presence
of one who wishes you so well as I do. And, believe me, I am
acting rather from necessity than choice. We have many things in
common, and I am sadly in the dark. There is much that I should be
doing, and my hands are tied. I do not know even what to feel, nor
who are my friends and enemies."
She found her voice with an effort.
"I do not know who you are," she said.
"Ah, yes! Miss Vandeleur, you do," returned Francis "better than I
do myself. Indeed, it is on that, above all, that I seek light.
Tell me what you know," he pleaded. "Tell me who I am, who you
are, and how our destinies are intermixed. Give me a little help
with my life, Miss Vandeleur - only a word or two to guide me, only
the name of my father, if you will - and I shall be grateful and
"I will not attempt to deceive you," she replied. "I know who you
are, but I am not at liberty to say."
"Tell me, at least, that you have forgiven my presumption, and I
shall wait with all the patience I have," he said. "If I am not to
know, I must do without. It is cruel, but I can bear more upon a
push. Only do not add to my troubles the thought that I have made
an enemy of you."
"You did only what was natural," she said, "and I have nothing to
forgive you. Farewell."
"Is it to be FAREWELL?" he asked.
"Nay, that I do not know myself," she answered. "Farewell for the
present, if you like."
And with these words she was gone.
Francis returned to his lodging in a state of considerable
commotion of mind. He made the most trifling progress with his
Euclid for that forenoon, and was more often at the window than at
his improvised writing-table. But beyond seeing the return of Miss
Vandeleur, and the meeting between her and her father, who was
smoking a Trichinopoli cigar in the verandah, there was nothing
notable in the neighbourhood of the house with the green blinds
before the time of the mid-day meal. The young man hastily allayed
his appetite in a neighbouring restaurant, and returned with the
speed of unallayed curiosity to the house in the Rue Lepic. A
mounted servant was leading a saddle-horse to and fro before the
garden wall; and the porter of Francis's lodging was smoking a pipe
against the door-post, absorbed in contemplation of the livery and
"Look!" he cried to the young man, "what fine cattle! what an
elegant costume! They belong to the brother of M. de Vandeleur,
who is now within upon a visit. He is a great man, a general, in
your country; and you doubtless know him well by reputation."
"I confess," returned Francis, "that I have never heard of General
Vandeleur before. We have many officers of that grade, and my
pursuits have been exclusively civil."
"It is he," replied the porter, "who lost the great diamond of the
Indies. Of that at least you must have read often in the papers."
As soon as Francis could disengage himself from the porter he ran
upstairs and hurried to the window. Immediately below the clear
space in the chestnut leaves, the two gentlemen were seated in
conversation over a cigar. The General, a red, military-looking
man, offered some traces of a family resemblance to his brother; he
had something of the same features, something, although very
little, of the same free and powerful carriage; but he was older,
smaller, and more common in air; his likeness was that of a
caricature, and he seemed altogether a poor and debile being by the
side of the Dictator.
They spoke in tones so low, leaning over the table with every
appearance of interest, that Francis could catch no more than a
word or two on an occasion. For as little as he heard, he was
convinced that the conversation turned upon himself and his own
career; several times the name of Scrymgeour reached his ear, for
it was easy to distinguish, and still more frequently he fancied he
could distinguish the name Francis.
At length the General, as if in a hot anger, broke forth into
several violent exclamations.
"Francis Vandeleur!" he cried, accentuating the last word.
"Francis Vandeleur, I tell you."
The Dictator made a movement of his whole body, half affirmative,
half contemptuous, but his answer was inaudible to the young man.
Was he the Francis Vandeleur in question? he wondered. Were they
discussing the name under which he was to be married? Or was the
whole affair a dream and a delusion of his own conceit and self-
After another interval of inaudible talk, dissension seemed again
to arise between the couple underneath the chestnut, and again the
General raised his voice angrily so as to be audible to Francis.
"My wife?" he cried. "I have done with my wife for good. I will
not hear her name. I am sick of her very name."
And he swore aloud and beat the table with his fist.
The Dictator appeared, by his gestures, to pacify him after a
paternal fashion; and a little after he conducted him to the
garden-gate. The pair shook hands affectionately enough; but as
soon as the door had closed behind his visitor, John Vandeleur fell
into a fit of laughter which sounded unkindly and even devilish in
the ears of Francis Scrymgeour.
So another day had passed, and little more learnt. But the young
man remembered that the morrow was Tuesday, and promised himself
some curious discoveries; all might be well, or all might be ill;
he was sure, at least, to glean some curious information, and,
perhaps, by good luck, get at the heart of the mystery which
surrounded his father and his family.
As the hour of the dinner drew near many preparations were made in
the garden of the house with the green blinds. That table which
was partly visible to Francis through the chestnut leaves was
destined to serve as a sideboard, and carried relays of plates and
the materials for salad: the other, which was almost entirely
concealed, had been set apart for the diners, and Francis could
catch glimpses of white cloth and silver plate.
Mr. Rolles arrived, punctual to the minute; he looked like a man
upon his guard, and spoke low and sparingly. The Dictator, on the
other hand, appeared to enjoy an unusual flow of spirits; his
laugh, which was youthful and pleasant to hear, sounded frequently
from the garden; by the modulation and the changes of his voice it
was obvious that he told many droll stories and imitated the
accents of a variety of different nations; and before he and the
young clergyman had finished their vermouth all feeling of distrust
was at an end, and they were talking together like a pair of school
At length Miss Vandeleur made her appearance, carrying the soup-
tureen. Mr. Rolles ran to offer her assistance which she
laughingly refused; and there was an interchange of pleasantries
among the trio which seemed to have reference to this primitive
manner of waiting by one of the company.
"One is more at one's ease," Mr. Vandeleur was heard to declare.
Next moment they were all three in their places, and Francis could
see as little as he could hear of what passed. But the dinner
seemed to go merrily; there was a perpetual babble of voices and
sound of knives and forks below the chestnut; and Francis, who had
no more than a roll to gnaw, was affected with envy by the comfort
and deliberation of the meal. The party lingered over one dish
after another, and then over a delicate dessert, with a bottle of
old wine carefully uncorked by the hand of the Dictator himself.
As it began to grow dark a lamp was set upon the table and a couple
of candles on the sideboard; for the night was perfectly pure,
starry, and windless. Light overflowed besides from the door and
window in the verandah, so that the garden was fairly illuminated
and the leaves twinkled in the darkness.
For perhaps the tenth time Miss Vandeleur entered the house; and on
this occasion she returned with the coffee-tray, which she placed
upon the sideboard. At the same moment her father rose from his
"The coffee is my province," Francis heard him say.
And next moment he saw his supposed father standing by the
sideboard in the light of the candles.
Talking over his shoulder all the while, Mr. Vandeleur poured out
two cups of the brown stimulant, and then, by a rapid act of
prestidigitation, emptied the contents of a tiny phial into the
smaller of the two. The thing was so swiftly done that even
Francis, who looked straight into his face, had hardly time to
perceive the movement before it was completed. And next instant,
and still laughing, Mr. Vandeleur had turned again towards the
table with a cup in either hand.
"Ere we have done with this," said he, "we may expect our famous
It would be impossible to depict the confusion and distress of
Francis Scrymgeour. He saw foul play going forward before his
eyes, and he felt bound to interfere, but knew not how. It might
be a mere pleasantry, and then how should he look if he were to
offer an unnecessary warning? Or again, if it were serious, the
criminal might be his own father, and then how should he not lament
if he were to bring ruin on the author of his days? For the first
time he became conscious of his own position as a spy. To wait
inactive at such a juncture and with such a conflict of sentiments
in his bosom was to suffer the most acute torture; he clung to the
bars of the shutters, his heart beat fast and with irregularity,
and he felt a strong sweat break forth upon his body.
Several minutes passed.
He seemed to perceive the conversation die away and grow less and
less in vivacity and volume; but still no sign of any alarming or
even notable event.
Suddenly the ring of a glass breaking was followed by a faint and
dull sound, as of a person who should have fallen forward with his
head upon the table. At the same moment a piercing scream rose
from the garden.
"What have you done?" cried Miss Vandeleur. "He is dead!"
The Dictator replied in a violent whisper, so strong and sibilant
that every word was audible to the watcher at the window.
"Silence!' said Mr. Vandeleur; "the man is as well as I am. Take
him by the heels whilst I carry him by the shoulders."
Francis heard Miss Vandeleur break forth into a passion of tears.
"Do you hear what I say?" resumed the Dictator, in the same tones.
"Or do you wish to quarrel with me? I give you your choice, Miss
There was another pause, and the Dictator spoke again.
"Take that man by the heels," he said. "I must have him brought
into the house. If I were a little younger, I could help myself
against the world. But now that years and dangers are upon me and
my hands are weakened, I must turn to you for aid."
"It is a crime," replied the girl.
"I am your father," said Mr. Vandeleur.
This appeal seemed to produce its effect. A scuffling noise
followed upon the gravel, a chair was overset, and then Francis saw
the father and daughter stagger across the walk and disappear under
the verandah, bearing the inanimate body of Mr. Rolles embraced
about the knees and shoulders. The young clergyman was limp and
pallid, and his head rolled upon his shoulders at every step.
Was he alive or dead? Francis, in spite of the Dictator's
declaration, inclined to the latter view. A great crime had been
committed; a great calamity had fallen upon the inhabitants of the
house with the green blinds. To his surprise, Francis found all
horror for the deed swallowed up in sorrow for a girl and an old
man whom he judged to be in the height of peril. A tide of
generous feeling swept into his heart; he, too, would help his
father against man and mankind, against fate and justice; and
casting open the shutters he closed his eyes and threw himself with
out-stretched arms into the foliage of the chestnut.
Branch after branch slipped from his grasp or broke under his
weight; then he caught a stalwart bough under his armpit, and hung
suspended for a second; and then he let himself drop and fell
heavily against the table. A cry of alarm from the house warned
him that his entrance had not been effected unobserved. He
recovered himself with a stagger, and in three bounds crossed the
intervening space and stood before the door in the verandah.
In a small apartment, carpeted with matting and surrounded by
glazed cabinets full of rare and costly curios, Mr. Vandeleur was
stooping over the body of Mr. Rolles. He raised himself as Francis
entered, and there was an instantaneous passage of hands. It was
the business of a second; as fast as an eye can wink the thing was
done; the young man had not the time to be sure, but it seemed to
him as if the Dictator had taken something from the curate's
breast, looked at it for the least fraction of time as it lay in
his hand, and then suddenly and swiftly passed it to his daughter.
All this was over while Francis had still one foot upon the
threshold, and the other raised in air. The next instant he was on
his knees to Mr. Vandeleur.
"Father!" he cried. "Let me too help you. I will do what you wish
and ask no questions; I will obey you with my life; treat me as a
son, and you will find I have a son's devotion."
A deplorable explosion of oaths was the Dictator's first reply.
"Son and father?" he cried. "Father and son? What d-d unnatural
comedy is all this? How do you come in my garden? What do you
want? And who, in God's name, are you?"
Francis, with a stunned and shamefaced aspect, got upon his feet
again, and stood in silence.
Then a light seemed to break upon Mr. Vandeleur, and he laughed
"I see," cried he. "It is the Scrymgeour. Very well, Mr.
Scrymgeour. Let me tell you in a few words how you stand. You
have entered my private residence by force, or perhaps by fraud,
but certainly with no encouragement from me; and you come at a
moment of some annoyance, a guest having fainted at my table, to
besiege me with your protestations. You are no son of mine. You
are my brother's bastard by a fishwife, if you want to know. I
regard you with an indifference closely bordering on aversion; and
from what I now see of your conduct, I judge your mind to be
exactly suitable to your exterior. I recommend you these
mortifying reflections for your leisure; and, in the meantime, let
me beseech you to rid us of your presence. If I were not
occupied," added the Dictator, with a terrifying oath, "I should
give you the unholiest drubbing ere you went!"
Francis listened in profound humiliation. He would have fled had
it been possible; but as he had no means of leaving the residence
into which he had so unfortunately penetrated, he could do no more
than stand foolishly where he was.
It was Miss Vandeleur who broke the silence.
"Father," she said, "you speak in anger. Mr. Scrymgeour may have
been mistaken, but he meant well and kindly."
"Thank you for speaking," returned the Dictator. "You remind me of
some other observations which I hold it a point of honour to make
to Mr. Scrymgeour. My brother," he continued, addressing the young
man, "has been foolish enough to give you an allowance; he was
foolish enough and presumptuous enough to propose a match between
you and this young lady. You were exhibited to her two nights ago;
and I rejoice to tell you that she rejected the idea with disgust.
Let me add that I have considerable influence with your father; and
it shall not be my fault if you are not beggared of your allowance
and sent back to your scrivening ere the week be out."
The tones of the old man's voice were, if possible, more wounding
than his language; Francis felt himself exposed to the most cruel,
blighting, and unbearable contempt; his head turned, and he covered
his face with his hands, uttering at the same time a tearless sob
of agony. But Miss Vandeleur once again interfered in his behalf.
"Mr. Scrymgeour," she said, speaking in clear and even tones, "you
must not be concerned at my father's harsh expressions. I felt no
disgust for you; on the contrary, I asked an opportunity to make
your better acquaintance. As for what has passed to-night, believe
me it has filled my mind with both pity and esteem."
Just then Mr. Rolles made a convulsive movement with his arm, which
convinced Francis that he was only drugged, and was beginning to
throw off the influence of the opiate. Mr. Vandeleur stooped over
him and examined his face for an instant.
"Come, come!" cried he, raising his head. "Let there be an end of
this. And since you are so pleased with his conduct, Miss
Vandeleur, take a candle and show the bastard out."
The young lady hastened to obey.
"Thank you," said Francis, as soon as he was alone with her in the
garden. "I thank you from my soul. This has been the bitterest
evening of my life, but it will have always one pleasant
"I spoke as I felt," she replied, "and in justice to you. It made
my heart sorry that you should be so unkindly used."
By this time they had reached the garden gate; and Miss Vandeleur,
having set the candle on the ground, was already unfastening the
"One word more," said Francis. "This is not for the last time - I
shall see you again, shall I not?"
"Alas!" she answered. "You have heard my father. What can I do
"Tell me at least that it is not with your consent," returned
Francis; "tell me that you have no wish to see the last of me."
"Indeed," replied she, "I have none. You seem to me both brave and
"Then," said Francis, "give me a keepsake."
She paused for a moment, with her hand upon the key; for the
various bars and bolts were all undone, and there was nothing left
but to open the lock.
"If I agree," she said, "will you promise to do as I tell you from
point to point?"
"Can you ask?" replied Francis. "I would do so willingly on your
She turned the key and threw open the door.
"Be it so," said she. "You do not know what you ask, but be it so.
Whatever you hear," she continued, "whatever happens, do not return
to this house; hurry fast until you reach the lighted and populous
quarters of the city; even there be upon your guard. You are in a
greater danger than you fancy. Promise me you will not so much as
look at my keepsake until you are in a place of safety."
"I promise," replied Francis.
She put something loosely wrapped in a handkerchief into the young
man's hand; and at the same time, with more strength than he could
have anticipated, she pushed him into the street.
"Now, run!" she cried.
He heard the door close behind him, and the noise of the bolts
"My faith," said he, "since I have promised!"
And he took to his heels down the lane that leads into the Rue
He was not fifty paces from the house with the green blinds when
the most diabolical outcry suddenly arose out of the stillness of
the night. Mechanically he stood still; another passenger followed
his example; in the neighbouring floors he saw people crowding to
the windows; a conflagration could not have produced more
disturbance in this empty quarter. And yet it seemed to be all the
work of a single man, roaring between grief and rage, like a
lioness robbed of her whelps; and Francis was surprised and alarmed
to hear his own name shouted with English imprecations to the wind.
His first movement was to return to the house; his second, as he
remembered Miss Vandeleur's advice, to continue his flight with
greater expedition than before; and he was in the act of turning to
put his thought in action, when the Dictator, bareheaded, bawling
aloud, his white hair blowing about his head, shot past him like a
ball out of the cannon's mouth, and went careering down the street.
"That was a close shave," thought Francis to himself. "What he
wants with me, and why he should be so disturbed, I cannot think;
but he is plainly not good company for the moment, and I cannot do
better than follow Miss Vandeleur's advice."
So saying, he turned to retrace his steps, thinking to double and
descend by the Rue Lepic itself while his pursuer should continue
to follow after him on the other line of street. The plan was ill-
devised: as a matter of fact, he should have taken his seat in the
nearest cafe, and waited there until the first heat of the pursuit
was over. But besides that Francis had no experience and little
natural aptitude for the small war of private life, he was so
unconscious of any evil on his part, that he saw nothing to fear
beyond a disagreeable interview. And to disagreeable interviews he
felt he had already served his apprenticeship that evening; nor
could he suppose that Miss Vandeleur had left anything unsaid.
Indeed, the young man was sore both in body and mind - the one was
all bruised, the other was full of smarting arrows; and he owned to
himself that Mr. Vandeleur was master of a very deadly tongue.
The thought of his bruises reminded him that he had not only come
without a hat, but that his clothes had considerably suffered in
his descent through the chestnut. At the first magazine he
purchased a cheap wideawake, and had the disorder of his toilet
summarily repaired. The keepsake, still rolled in the
handkerchief, he thrust in the meanwhile into his trousers pocket.
Not many steps beyond the shop he was conscious of a sudden shock,
a hand upon his throat, an infuriated face close to his own, and an
open mouth bawling curses in his ear. The Dictator, having found
no trace of his quarry, was returning by the other way. Francis
was a stalwart young fellow; but he was no match for his adversary
whether in strength or skill; and after a few ineffectual struggles
he resigned himself entirely to his captor.
"What do you want with me?" said he.
"We will talk of that at home," returned the Dictator grimly.
And he continued to march the young man up hill in the direction of
the house with the green blinds.
But Francis, although he no longer struggled, was only waiting an
opportunity to make a bold push for freedom. With a sudden jerk he
left the collar of his coat in the hands of Mr. Vandeleur, and once
more made off at his best speed in the direction of the Boulevards.
The tables were now turned. If the Dictator was the stronger,
Francis, in the top of his youth, was the more fleet of foot, and
he had soon effected his escape among the crowds. Relieved for a
moment, but with a growing sentiment of alarm and wonder in his
mind, be walked briskly until he debauched upon the Place de
l'Opera, lit up like day with electric lamps.
"This, at least," thought he, "should satisfy Miss Vandeleur."
And turning to his right along the Boulevards, he entered the Cafe
Americain and ordered some beer. It was both late and early for
the majority of the frequenters of the establishment. Only two or
three persons, all men, were dotted here and there at separate
tables in the hall; and Francis was too much occupied by his own
thoughts to observe their presence.
He drew the handkerchief from his pocket. The object wrapped in it
proved to be a morocco case, clasped and ornamented in gilt, which
opened by means of a spring, and disclosed to the horrified young
man a diamond of monstrous bigness and extraordinary brilliancy.
The circumstance was so inexplicable, the value of the stone was
plainly so enormous, that Francis sat staring into the open casket
without movement, without conscious thought, like a man stricken
suddenly with idiocy.
A hand was laid upon his shoulder, lightly but firmly, and a quiet
voice, which yet had in it the ring of command, uttered these words
in his ear -
"Close the casket, and compose your face."
Looking up, he beheld a man, still young, of an urbane and tranquil
presence, and dressed with rich simplicity. This personage had
risen from a neighbouring table, and, bringing his glass with him,
had taken a seat beside Francis.
"Close the casket," repeated the stranger, "and put it quietly back
into your pocket, where I feel persuaded it should never have been.
Try, if you please, to throw off your bewildered air, and act as
though I were one of your acquaintances whom you had met by chance.
So! Touch glasses with me. That is better. I fear, sir, you must
be an amateur."
And the stranger pronounced these last words with a smile of
peculiar meaning, leaned back in his seat and enjoyed a deep
inhalation of tobacco.
"For God's sake," said Francis, "tell me who you are and what this
means? Why I should obey your most unusual suggestions I am sure I
know not; but the truth is, I have fallen this evening into so many
perplexing adventures, and all I meet conduct themselves so
strangely, that I think I must either have gone mad or wandered
into another planet. Your face inspires me with confidence; you
seem wise, good, and experienced; tell me, for heaven's sake, why
you accost me in so odd a fashion?"
"All in due time," replied the stranger. "But I have the first
hand, and you must begin by telling me how the Rajah's Diamond is
in your possession."
"The Rajah's Diamond!" echoed Francis.
"I would not speak so loud, if I were you," returned the other.
"But most certainly you have the Rajah's Diamond in your pocket. I
have seen and handled it a score of times in Sir Thomas Vandeleur's
"Sir Thomas Vandeleur! The General! My father!" cried Francis.
"Your father?" repeated the stranger. "I was not aware the General
had any family."
"I am illegitimate, sir," replied Francis, with a flush.
The other bowed with gravity. It was a respectful bow, as of a man
silently apologising to his equal; and Francis felt relieved and
comforted, he scarce knew why. The society of this person did him
good; he seemed to touch firm ground; a strong feeling of respect
grew up in his bosom, and mechanically he removed his wideawake as
though in the presence of a superior.
"I perceive," said the stranger, "that your adventures have not all
been peaceful. Your collar is torn, your face is scratched, you
have a cut upon your temple; you will, perhaps, pardon my curiosity
when I ask you to explain how you came by these injuries, and how
you happen to have stolen property to an enormous value in your
"I must differ from you!" returned Francis hotly. "I possess no
stolen property. And if you refer to the diamond, it was given to
me not an hour ago by Miss Vandeleur in the Rue Lepic."
"By Miss Vandeleur of the Rue Lepic!" repeated the other. "You
interest me more than you suppose. Pray continue."
"Heavens!" cried Francis.
His memory had made a sudden bound. He had seen Mr. Vandeleur take
an article from the breast of his drugged visitor, and that
article, he was now persuaded, was a morocco case.
"You have a light?" inquired the stranger.
"Listen," replied Francis. "I know not who you are, but I believe
you to be worthy of confidence and helpful; I find myself in
strange waters; I must have counsel and support, and since you
invite me I shall tell you all."
And he briefly recounted his experiences since the day when he was
summoned from the bank by his lawyer.
"Yours is indeed a remarkable history," said the stranger, after
the young man had made an end of his narrative; "and your position
is full of difficulty and peril. Many would counsel you to seek
out your father, and give the diamond to him; but I have other
views. Waiter!" he cried.
The waiter drew near.
"Will you ask the manager to speak with me a moment?" said he; and
Francis observed once more, both in his tone and manner, the
evidence of a habit of command.
The waiter withdrew, and returned in a moment with manager, who
bowed with obsequious respect.
"What," said he, "can I do to serve you?"
"Have the goodness," replied the stranger, indicating Francis, "to
tell this gentleman my name."
"You have the honour, sir," said the functionary, addressing young
Scrymgeour, "to occupy the same table with His Highness Prince
Florizel of Bohemia."
Francis rose with precipitation, and made a grateful reverence to
the Prince, who bade him resume his seat.
"I thank you," said Florizel, once more addressing the functionary;
"I am sorry to have deranged you for so small a matter."
And he dismissed him with a movement of his hand.
"And now," added the Prince, turning to Francis, "give me the
Without a word the casket was handed over.
"You have done right," said Florizel, "your sentiments have
properly inspired you, and you will live to be grateful for the
misfortunes of to-night. A man, Mr. Scrymgeour, may fall into a
thousand perplexities, but if his heart be upright and his
intelligence unclouded, he will issue from them all without
dishonour. Let your mind be at rest; your affairs are in my hand;
and with the aid of heaven I am strong enough to bring them to a
good end. Follow me, if you please, to my carriage."
So saying the Prince arose and, having left a piece of gold for the
waiter, conducted the young man from the cafe and along the
Boulevard to where an unpretentious brougham and a couple of
servants out of livery awaited his arrival.
"This carriage," said he, "is at your disposal; collect your
baggage as rapidly as you can make it convenient, and my servants
will conduct you to a villa in the neighbourhood of Paris where you
can wait in some degree of comfort until I have had time to arrange
your situation. You will find there a pleasant garden, a library
of good authors, a cook, a cellar, and some good cigars, which I
recommend to your attention. Jerome," he added, turning to one of
the servants, "you have heard what I say; I leave Mr. Scrymgeour in
your charge; you will, I know, be careful of my friend."
Francis uttered some broken phrases of gratitude.
"It will be time enough to thank me," said the Prince, "when you
are acknowledged by your father and married to Miss Vandeleur."
And with that the Prince turned away and strolled leisurely in the
direction of Montmartre. He hailed the first passing cab, gave an
address, and a quarter of an hour afterwards, having discharged the
driver some distance lower, he was knocking at Mr. Vandeleur's
It was opened with singular precautions by the Dictator in person.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"You must pardon me this late visit, Mr. Vandeleur," replied the
"Your Highness is always welcome," returned Mr. Vandeleur, stepping
The Prince profited by the open space, and without waiting for his
host walked right into the house and opened the door of the SALON.
Two people were seated there; one was Miss Vandeleur, who bore the
marks of weeping about her eyes, and was still shaken from time to
time by a sob; in the other the Prince recognised the young man who
had consulted him on literary matters about a month before, in a
"Good evening, Miss Vandeleur," said Florizel; "you look fatigued.
Mr. Rolles, I believe? I hope you have profited by the study of
Gaboriau, Mr. Rolles."
But the young clergyman's temper was too much embittered for
speech; and he contented himself with bowing stiffly, and continued
to gnaw his lip.
"To what good wind," said Mr. Vandeleur, following his guest, "am I
to attribute the honour of your Highness's presence?"
"I am come on business," returned the Prince; "on business with
you; as soon as that is settled I shall request Mr. Rolles to
accompany me for a walk. Mr. Rolles," he added with severity, "let
me remind you that I have not yet sat down."
The clergyman sprang to his feet with an apology; whereupon the
Prince took an armchair beside the table, handed his hat to Mr.
Vandeleur, his cane to Mr. Rolles, and, leaving them standing and
thus menially employed upon his service, spoke as follows:-
"I have come here, as I said, upon business; but, had I come
looking for pleasure, I could not have been more displeased with my
reception nor more dissatisfied with my company. You, sir,"
addressing Mr. Rolles, "you have treated your superior in station
with discourtesy; you, Vandeleur, receive me with a smile, but you
know right well that your hands are not yet cleansed from
misconduct. I do not desire to be interrupted, sir," he added
imperiously; "I am here to speak, and not to listen; and I have to
ask you to hear me with respect, and to obey punctiliously. At the
earliest possible date your daughter shall be married at the
Embassy to my friend, Francis Scrymgeour, your brother's
acknowledged son. You will oblige me by offering not less than ten
thousand pounds dowry. For yourself, I will indicate to you in
writing a mission of some importance in Siam which I destine to
your care. And now, sir, you will answer me in two words whether
or not you agree to these conditions."
"Your Highness will pardon me," said Mr. Vandeleur, "and permit me,
with all respect, to submit to him two queries?"
"The permission is granted," replied the Prince.
"Your Highness," resumed the Dictator, "has called Mr. Scrymgeour
his friend. Believe me, had I known he was thus honoured, I should
have treated him with proportional respect."
"You interrogate adroitly," said the Prince; "but it will not serve
your turn. You have my commands; if I had never seen that
gentleman before to-night, it would not render them less absolute."
"Your Highness interprets my meaning with his usual subtlety,"
returned Vandeleur. "Once more: I have, unfortunately, put the
police upon the track of Mr. Scrymgeour on a charge of theft; am I
to withdraw or to uphold the accusation?"
"You will please yourself," replied Florizel. "The question is one
between your conscience and the laws of this land. Give me my hat;
and you, Mr. Rolles, give me my cane and follow me. Miss
Vandeleur, I wish you good evening. I judge," he added to
Vandeleur, "that your silence means unqualified assent."
"If I can do no better," replied the old man, "I shall submit; but
I warn you openly it shall not be without a struggle."
"You are old," said the Prince; "but years are disgraceful to the
wicked. Your age is more unwise than the youth of others. Do not
provoke me, or you may find me harder than you dream. This is the
first time that I have fallen across your path in anger; take care
that it be the last."
With these words, motioning the clergyman to follow, Florizel left
the apartment and directed his steps towards the garden gate; and
the Dictator, following with a candle, gave them light, and once
more undid the elaborate fastenings with which he sought to protect
himself from intrusion.
"Your daughter is no longer present," said the Prince, turning on
the threshold. "Let me tell you that I understand your threats;
and you have only to lift your hand to bring upon yourself sudden
and irremediable ruin."
The Dictator made no reply; but as the Prince turned his back upon
him in the lamplight he made a gesture full of menace and insane
fury; and the next moment, slipping round a corner, he was running
at full speed for the nearest cab-stand.
(Here, says my Arabian, the thread of events is finally diverted
from THE HOUSE WITH THE GREEN BLINDS. One more adventure, he adds,
and we have done with THE RAJAH'S DIAMOND. That last link in the
chain is known among the inhabitants of Bagdad by the name of THE
ADVENTURE OF PRINCE FLORIZEL AND A DETECTIVE.)
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