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The Adventure of Prince Florizel and a Detective

Prince Florizel walked with Mr. Rolles to the door of a small hotel
where the latter resided. They spoke much together, and the
clergyman was more than once affected to tears by the mingled
severity and tenderness of Florizel's reproaches.

"I have made ruin of my life," he said at last. "Help me; tell me
what I am to do; I have, alas! neither the virtues of a priest nor
the dexterity of a rogue."

"Now that you are humbled," said the Prince, "I command no longer;
the repentant have to do with God and not with princes. But if you
will let me advise you, go to Australia as a colonist, seek menial
labour in the open air, and try to forget that you have ever been a
clergyman, or that you ever set eyes on that accursed stone."

"Accurst indeed!" replied Mr. Rolles. "Where is it now? What
further hurt is it not working for mankind?"

"It will do no more evil," returned the Prince. "It is here in my
pocket. And this," he added kindly, "will show that I place some
faith in your penitence, young as it is."

"Suffer me to touch your hand," pleaded Mr. Rolles.

"No," replied Prince Florizel, "not yet."

The tone in which he uttered these last words was eloquent in the
ears of the young clergyman; and for some minutes after the Prince
had turned away he stood on the threshold following with his eyes
the retreating figure and invoking the blessing of heaven upon a
man so excellent in counsel.

For several hours the Prince walked alone in unfrequented streets.
His mind was full of concern; what to do with the diamond, whether
to return it to its owner, whom he judged unworthy of this rare
possession, or to take some sweeping and courageous measure and put
it out of the reach of all mankind at once and for ever, was a
problem too grave to be decided in a moment. The manner in which
it had come into his hands appeared manifestly providential; and as
he took out the jewel and looked at it under the street lamps, its
size and surprising brilliancy inclined him more and more to think
of it as of an unmixed and dangerous evil for the world.

"God help me!" he thought; "if I look at it much oftener, I shall
begin to grow covetous myself."

At last, though still uncertain in his mind, he turned his steps
towards the small but elegant mansion on the river-side which had
belonged for centuries to his royal family. The arms of Bohemia
are deeply graved over the door and upon the tall chimneys;
passengers have a look into a green court set with the most costly
flowers, and a stork, the only one in Paris, perches on the gable
all day long and keeps a crowd before the house. Grave servants
are seen passing to and fro within; and from time to time the great
gate is thrown open and a carriage rolls below the arch. For many
reasons this residence was especially dear to the heart of Prince
Florizel; he never drew near to it without enjoying that sentiment
of home-coming so rare in the lives of the great; and on the
present evening he beheld its tall roof and mildly illuminated
windows with unfeigned relief and satisfaction.

As he was approaching the postern door by which he always entered
when alone, a man stepped forth from the shadow and presented
himself with an obeisance in the Prince's path.

"I have the honour of addressing Prince Florizel of Bohemia?" said
he.

"Such is my title," replied the Prince. "What do you want with
me?"

"I am," said the man, "a detective, and I have to present your
Highness with this billet from the Prefect of Police."

The Prince took the letter and glanced it through by the light of
the street lamp. It was highly apologetic, but requested him to
follow the bearer to the Prefecture without delay.

"In short," said Florizel, "I am arrested."

"Your Highness," replied the officer, "nothing, I am certain, could
be further from the intention of the Prefect. You will observe
that he has not granted a warrant. It is mere formality, or call
it, if you prefer, an obligation that your Highness lays on the
authorities."

"At the same time," asked the Prince, "if I were to refuse to
follow you?"

"I will not conceal from your Highness that a considerable
discretion has been granted me," replied the detective with a bow.

"Upon my word," cried Florizel, "your effrontery astounds me!
Yourself, as an agent, I must pardon; but your superiors shall
dearly smart for their misconduct. What, have you any idea, is the
cause of this impolitic and unconstitutional act? You will observe
that I have as yet neither refused nor consented, and much may
depend on your prompt and ingenuous answer. Let me remind you,
officer, that this is an affair of some gravity."

"Your Highness," said the detective humbly, "General Vandeleur and
his brother have had the incredible presumption to accuse you of
theft. The famous diamond, they declare, is in your hands. A word
from you in denial will most amply satisfy the Prefect; nay, I go
farther: if your Highness would so far honour a subaltern as to
declare his ignorance of the matter even to myself, I should ask
permission to retire upon the spot."

Florizel, up to the last moment, had regarded his adventure in the
light of a trifle, only serious upon international considerations.
At the name of Vandeleur the horrible truth broke upon him in a
moment; he was not only arrested, but he was guilty. This was not
only an annoying incident - it was a peril to his honour. What was
he to say? What was he to do? The Rajah's Diamond was indeed an
accursed stone; and it seemed as if he were to be the last victim
to its influence.

One thing was certain. He could not give the required assurance to
the detective. He must gain time.

His hesitation had not lasted a second.

"Be it so," said he, "let us walk together to the Prefecture."

The man once more bowed, and proceeded to follow Florizel at a
respectful distance in the rear.

"Approach," said the Prince. "I am in a humour to talk, and, if I
mistake not, now I look at you again, this is not the first time
that we have met."

"I count it an honour," replied the officer, "that your Highness
should recollect my face. It is eight years since I had the
pleasure of an interview."

"To remember faces," returned Florizel, "is as much a part of my
profession as it is of yours. Indeed, rightly looked upon, a
Prince and a detective serve in the same corps. We are both
combatants against crime; only mine is the more lucrative and yours
the more dangerous rank, and there is a sense in which both may be
made equally honourable to a good man. I had rather, strange as
you may think it, be a detective of character and parts than a weak
and ignoble sovereign."

The officer was overwhelmed.

"Your Highness returns good for evil," said he. "To an act of
presumption he replies by the most amiable condescension."

"How do you know," replied Florizel, "that I am not seeking to
corrupt you?"

"Heaven preserve me from the temptation!" cried the detective.

"I applaud your answer," returned the Prince. "It is that of a
wise and honest man. The world is a great place and stocked with
wealth and beauty, and there is no limit to the rewards that may be
offered. Such an one who would refuse a million of money may sell
his honour for an empire or the love of a woman; and I myself, who
speak to you, have seen occasions so tempting, provocations so
irresistible to the strength of human virtue, that I have been glad
to tread in your steps and recommend myself to the grace of God.
It is thus, thanks to that modest and becoming habit alone," he
added, "that you and I can walk this town together with untarnished
hearts."

"I had always heard that you were brave," replied the officer, "but
I was not aware that you were wise and pious. You speak the truth,
and you speak it with an accent that moves me to the heart. This
world is indeed a place of trial."

"We are now," said Florizel, "in the middle of the bridge. Lean
your elbows on the parapet and look over. As the water rushing
below, so the passions and complications of life carry away the
honesty of weak men. Let me tell you a story."

"I receive your Highness's commands," replied the man.

And, imitating the Prince, he leaned against the parapet, and
disposed himself to listen. The city was already sunk in slumber;
had it not been for the infinity of lights and the outline of
buildings on the starry sky, they might have been alone beside some
country river.

"An officer," began Prince Florizel, "a man of courage and conduct,
who had already risen by merit to an eminent rank, and won not only
admiration but respect, visited, in an unfortunate hour for his
peace of mind, the collections of an Indian Prince. Here he beheld
a diamond so extraordinary for size and beauty that from that
instant he had only one desire in life: honour, reputation,
friendship, the love of country, he was ready to sacrifice all for
this lump of sparkling crystal. For three years he served this
semi-barbarian potentate as Jacob served Laban; he falsified
frontiers, he connived at murders, he unjustly condemned and
executed a brother-officer who had the misfortune to displease the
Rajah by some honest freedoms; lastly, at a time of great danger to
his native land, he betrayed a body of his fellow-soldiers, and
suffered them to be defeated and massacred by thousands. In the
end, he had amassed a magnificent fortune, and brought home with
him the coveted diamond.

"Years passed," continued the Prince, "and at length the diamond is
accidentally lost. It falls into the hands of a simple and
laborious youth, a student, a minister of God, just entering on a
career of usefulness and even distinction. Upon him also the spell
is cast; he deserts everything, his holy calling, his studies, and
flees with the gem into a foreign country. The officer has a
brother, an astute, daring, unscrupulous man, who learns the
clergyman's secret. What does he do? Tell his brother, inform the
police? No; upon this man also the Satanic charm has fallen; he
must have the stone for himself. At the risk of murder, he drugs
the young priest and seizes the prey. And now, by an accident
which is not important to my moral, the jewel passes out of his
custody into that of another, who, terrified at what he sees, gives
it into the keeping of a man in high station and above reproach.

"The officer's name is Thomas Vandeleur," continued Florizel. "The
stone is called the Rajah's Diamond. And" - suddenly opening his
hand - "you behold it here before your eyes."

The officer started back with a cry.

"We have spoken of corruption," said the Prince. "To me this
nugget of bright crystal is as loathsome as though it were crawling
with the worms of death; it is as shocking as though it were
compacted out of innocent blood. I see it here in my hand, and I
know it is shining with hell-fire. I have told you but a hundredth
part of its story; what passed in former ages, to what crimes and
treacheries it incited men of yore, the imagination trembles to
conceive; for years and years it has faithfully served the powers
of hell; enough, I say, of blood, enough of disgrace, enough of
broken lives and friendships; all things come to an end, the evil
like the good; pestilence as well as beautiful music; and as for
this diamond, God forgive me if I do wrong, but its empire ends to-
night."

The Prince made a sudden movement with his hand, and the jewel,
describing an arc of light, dived with a splash into the flowing
river.

"Amen," said Florizel with gravity. "I have slain a cockatrice!"

"God pardon me!" cried the detective. "What have you done? I am a
ruined man."

"I think," returned the Prince with a smile, "that many well-to-do
people in this city might envy you your ruin."

"Alas! your Highness!" said the officer, "and you corrupt me after
all?"

"It seems there was no help for it," replied Florizel. "And now
let us go forward to the Prefecture."


Not long after, the marriage of Francis Scrymgeour and Miss
Vandeleur was celebrated in great privacy; and the Prince acted on
that occasion as groomsman. The two Vandeleurs surprised some
rumour of what had happened to the diamond; and their vast diving
operations on the River Seine are the wonder and amusement of the
idle. It is true that through some miscalculation they have chosen
the wrong branch of the river. As for the Prince, that sublime
person, having now served his turn, may go, along with the ARABIAN
AUTHOR, topsy-turvy into space. But if the reader insists on more
specific information, I am happy to say that a recent revolution
hurled him from the throne of Bohemia, in consequence of his
continued absence and edifying neglect of public business; and that
his Highness now keeps a cigar store in Rupert Street, much
frequented by other foreign refugees. I go there from time to time
to smoke and have a chat, and find him as great a creature as in
the days of his prosperity; he has an Olympian air behind the
counter; and although a sedentary life is beginning to tell upon
his waistcoat, he is probably, take him for all in all, the
handsomest tobacconist in London.

Robert Louis Stevenson