I simply propose a wager to you. If the stone be found to weigh twenty-six grains, I shall lose two hundred Louis, if it weighs much less you will lose the ring."
"That's a scandalous proposal; it's as much as to tell me that I am a liar."
I did not like the tone with which these words were spoken, and I went up to the chest of drawers where I kept my pistols, and bade him go and leave me in peace.
Just then General Roniker came in, and the owner of the ring told him of the dispute between us. The general looked at the ring, and said to him,--
"If anyone were to give me the ring I should not have the stone taken out, because one should not look a gift horse in the mouth; but if it came to a question of buying or lending I would not give a crown for it, were the owner an emperor, before the stone was taken out; and I am very much surprised at your refusing to let this be done."
Without a word the knave made for the door, and the ring remained in the hands of my late host.
"Why didn't you give him his ring?" said I.
"Because I have advanced him fifty Louis on it; but if he does not redeem it to-morrow I will have the stone taken out before a judge, and afterwards I shall sell it by auction."
"I don't like the man's manners, and I hope you will never bring anyone to my rooms again."
The affair came to the following conclusion: The impostor did not redeem the ring, and the Liege tradesman had the setting removed. The diamond was found to be placed on a bed of rock crystal, which formed two-thirds of the whole bulk. However, the diamond was worth fifty Louis, and an Englishman bought it. A week afterwards the knave met me as I was walking by myself, and begged me to follow him to place where we should be free from observation, as his sword had somewhat to say to mine. Curiously enough I happened to be wearing my sword at the time.
"I will not follow you," I replied; "the matter can be settled here?"
"We are observed."
"All the better. Make haste and draw your sword first."
"The advantage is with you."
"I know it, and so it ought to be. If you do not draw I will proclaim you to be the coward I am sure you are."
At this he drew his sword rapidly and came on, but I was ready to receive him. He began to fence to try my mettle, but I lunged right at his chest, and gave him three inches of cold steel. I should have killed him on the spot if he had not lowered his sword, saying he would take his revenge at another time. With this he went off, holding his hand to the wound.
A score of people were close by, but no one troubled himself about the wounded man, as he was known to have been the aggressor. The duel had no further consequences for me. When I left Spa the man was still in the surgeon's hands. He was something worse than an adventurer, and all the French at Spa disowned him.
But to return to Croce and his dinner.
The marchioness, his wife so-called, was a young lady of sixteen or seventeen, fair-complexioned and tall, with all the manners of the Belgian nobility. The history of her escape is well known to her brothers and sisters, and as her family are still in existence my readers will be obliged to me for concealing her name.
Her husband had told her about me, and she received me in the most gracious manner possible. She shewed no signs of sadness or of repentance for the steps she had taken. She was with child for some months, and seemed to be near her term, owing to the slimness of her figure. Nevertheless she had the aspect of perfect health. Her countenance expressed candour and frankness of disposition in a remarkable degree. Her eyes were large and blue, her complexion a roseate hue, her small sweet mouth, her perfect teeth made her a beauty worthy of the brush of Albano.
I thought myself skilled in physiognomy, and concluded that she was not only perfectly happy, but also the cause of happiness. But here let me say how vain a thing it is for anyone to pronounce a man or woman to be happy or unhappy from a merely cursory inspection.