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The Crystal Goblet


[ÂLL BNITI RISBBVBD]. The Crystal Goblet BY DRUID GRAYL, Author of Satan's Snare," "The Body in the Box," No Clue," &c. iae voice within th, room went easily on; so, biting lii.s under lip, and forcing a smile, he turned the handle slowly, and went ill, "A prize, a prize for you, sir," he ejacu- lated exultantly; "pardon my breaking in on your reading, Clare, but here ie some thing the like of which I have never scei. before." He took the goblet from its case and held it on a level with their eyes for inspection. Clare looked brightly at the object, saying. "What a beautiful glass"; and Antonio, had he dared, would have replied: "There is but one beauty in the roomYourseIf "-and in truth he would not have erred greatly, for the rich complexion, goklen-red hair, and great blue eyes of the lovely young woman made everything else in the apartment cold and lifeless by comparison. Mr. Markham, a tall, picturesque, but pallid and grey-haired man, remarked quietly, in a low and tired voice: "A rutx- cryatal goblet I perceive; where did you get it, and what was the price?" "Three hundred and sixty guineas, sir—not too much, I believe—for it is practically unique, as I will prove presently. ft put up at Marshall's Sale Roon;s. I strolled in bv chance. Levi was there, and a foreigner whom I did not know, with him. They went up to a hundred, and other bid ders mounted by degrees till ] outstripped them. Observe, sir, there is the phoenix badge of some noble Italian family on the foot; but the stem is hollow and contains a fluid-a great rarity in crystals, I learned." "The badge is that ot some disciple of Paracelsus, the physician," answered the tired voice. Antonio started, and his olive face went a shade lighter as he replied, somewhat despon- dently, "I hope I have not laid out the money to bad advantage, sir." "O dear no. judiciously sold, the goblet would realise at least five hundred guineas. I was merely correcting your error as to the emblem. "I'm so glad," said Antonio, with evident relief "for there's sure to be a paragraph in the papers about the sale, and your collection must not be decried, sir. I ought to mention, too, that I noticed that fellow Couch—about whom Detective Parsotii warned us-in the sale-room. "Indeed," retorted Mr. Markham, a little uneasily adding, However, he's not likely to pay me a visit for a breakable and come paratively valueless article. Still, his pre- sence there is significant. Thank you for your afternoon's work all round." The young man bowed, and the three people 0 then admirod the new possession as only col- lectors can—every aspect- of the design and every liue of the engraving receiving its due rai praise and appreciation. Finally, the goblet was replaced in the case and set on a high bracket and they went into the supper-room, where Mr. Markham s^oke learnedly, at intervale, of crystal and turly workers in the material. Antonio re- curred again and again to the subject of the man Couch and his class, but Mr. Markham expressed no further uneasiness, and Clare remarked in the subtly sarcastic style she Bometimea affected, that dogs occasionally ate "conch" as a medicine—a remark which puzzled Antonio so that he asked for an ex- planation, and was laughingly informed that triticum repenb-otherwise couch-grass—was indeed good natural physic for dogs, and likewise afforded an excellent pun. Antonio, who was without humour, immediately sub- sided, but Mr. Markham gave one of his rare laughs, and Clare resumed her ordinary manner for the rest of the evening, to the younger man's evident relief. Nevertheless, one of the ground-floor win- dows was cut with a diamond a night or so later, and the dogs had made no sign. An- toi io was full of the matter, vowing that he would lie awake for a week of nights, if ne- cessary, and shoot any intruder at sight. Then a most unexpected thing happened. The crystal goblet, case and all, was missing from the bracket one morning, though nothing else had been touched. Mr. Markham, curiously enough, made light of the incident, declaring that he would not be bothered about the affair at present. Clare said nothing, so Antonio, after a little volubility, was forced to keep silence, though plainly uneasy of mind. For the next night or so he lay upon the bed in his dresiing-gown, with the door ajar, listening for any unusual noise without or within the house, and then his patience had its reward. The doors of "The Belvedere" were too well hung to creak, and the carpeted corri- dors gave no sound of a footfall, but a thin pencil of light gradually widened on the land- ing, so Antonio leaped from the bed and peered through the chink of his doorway. In another moment he could see the tall, spare figure of Mr. Markham walking from his bedroom along the lobby, carrying a crystal goblet in one hand, whilst shielding it with the other. Looking neither to the right nor left he made his way to the sitting-room, opened the door cautiously, switched on the electric ligh and passed within. In another moment there was a sharp ring- ing noise as of snapped glass, a crash on the parquetry, and then a stifled exclamation, fol- lowed by a deep-drawn sigh. Antonio had seen and heard enough to satisfy himself. He closed his door quietly, slipped out of dressing-gown and slippers, and slid quickly into bed. But not to sleep. He iay there thinking and planning till the ordinary noises of the house began at early morning, and then he began to tremble slightly, and his heart beat tumultuously for a while. He began to dres43 at the treual time, listen- ing intently; but nothing out of the usual course happened. He was forced to steady his nerves with a nip of neat spirit from his pocket-flask just before the man brought hot shaving water, and when the domestic had retired without any special communication, he had recourse to the flask again, for his hand shook visibly, and the circles beneath his eves were as if artificially darkened with purple pigment. But the alcohol had its effect before he was finally dressed; his spirits lifted, andshe carefully rinsed away the odour of the cognac from is breath with an aromatic wash, and .Jl::d tft fo* hrf nkfast-room. • if^Tentered"eipecTTng tc-ffn(r Clare there aloae but Mr. Markham was seated at her right, and behind him, on the bracket, was the crystal goblet* intact from its case, glint- ing in the sunlight. He started palpably, and, for all his ficti- tious courage, could not repress a slight "Ah!" 9 Mr. Markham smiled. "I see you are sur- prised, Carl," he said, kindly. "YeB, the goblet is safe. It's a long story, and Clare will tell it better than I-after breakfast. Fall to, lad."

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