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contents were precisely as true, though written two centuries ago, as if written only forty-eight hours ago. At that time there was in existence a casket containing diamonds belonging to Henry Delorme. At the present time was there any chance of the diamonds being in existence, or any chance of the Delormes ever getting that casket into their possession? Evidently the original Delorme had thought that his banking house had failed. But he had also suggested another and more favourable explanation, i.e. that the bank had only shifted its quarters. Then I had a wonderful idea of the permanence of English institutions. A great Frenchman once made a journey to England for the simple purpose of ascertaining whether the bread and beer bequeathed to travellers past St. Cross, near Winchester, five hundred years ago, was still given away in accordance with the ancient bequest. Such is the English genius for leaving things alone, that if the casket had never been asked for it might have slumbered undisturbed for any conceivable time. Of course, however, there were two considerations which militated strongly against any illusory hopes. There was the fact that Godsons' bank had disappeared. Then again, if it had disappeared only to revive in another direction, of course the cellars would have been systematically overhauled, and a treasure of this sort would, in the course of time, come into the legitimate possession of the bank. Was it possible, by any rare concatenation of such circumstances, such as might happen, in fact, though they might be too daring for fiction,that these diamonds might be yet in existence, and that my darling Fanny might have her share of them, to turn into cash or to wear in her hair as she liked best?
I turned the idea over in what, to use Lord Westbury's formula, 'I was pleased to call my mind.' It was so seldom that I got an idea, that I naturally wished to make the most of it. My idée fixe-a mild species of monomania -was that, though there were ten thousand chances against it, there was yet the chance that something might be heard about the casket of diamonds. At all events I should find it an interesting amusement to look into matters.
I told Jack Burnett to go to the British Museum and look matters up, or employ somebody to look matters up. The fate of Godsons' banking firm was hardly a matter that would leave no trace behind. I have no doubt that Jack Burnett got somebody sharper than himself to help him, and I knew that he must have got him cheap. Anyhow he obtained the information that Godsons' firm did, in the reign of James II., when Popery and arbitrary power for the moment. seem triumphant, and when some of its best customers were suspected of complicity with Monmouth's rebellion, betake itself to the Batavian Republic in which it had a large connection, and resumed or set up business in Rotterdam. Here, then, and without any difficulty to speak of, was the very clue that I wanted.
Now, up to that date, I had never been abroad at all. It is, perhaps, a humiliating confession to make; but I was a very young man then a young bear with all my troubles before me and I have since abundantly retrieved myself in this particular. I was to go abroad for the first time this summer for a short holiday, and I was determined that I would see Holland and the Rhine. Consequently any inquiries at Rotterdam would be all in the day's work, so to speak. In some points of view I
would rather have spent my holiday in London, near Fanny; but then I told myself that I was going abroad in Fanny's own interests.
There is something very interesting in going abroad for the first time. You may make hundreds of journeys afterwards, but there is nothing like that first journey. Rotterdam, with its watery ways, is only inferior to Venice itself in the poetry of its reminiscences. The low shore, with its windmills and vast meadow-reaches, was intensely interesting to me.
ranges of tall houses by the shadowed canals, the quaint streets, the old churches, the wharfs, formed a sight photographed for ever on the mental retina. There was the statue of the great Erasmus holding an iron book; and my companion told me that the legend was that once a year-at the time of Christmas or the New Year-he turned over a page of the iron book; and that when the last page was turned over, the end of the world would come. In the steamer I had formed the acquaintance of a young Dutchman-there was plenty of time for it-who spoke English excellently well; and, what was more to my purpose, he knew Rotterdam thoroughly well, and through his father, an exalted functionary of some sort or other, he could make any inquiry for me at the bankers'. I may mention that, through the kindness of this gentleman, I had no difficulty in discovering that the Messrs. Godson had occupied a bank now in the possession of Mynheer Bondet. The present Bondet was most obliging. He told me that he had received the greatest kindness and hospitality in England, and that he had made a vow to himself that he would show kindness and hospitality to all the English people whom he might ever meet. He took me to his house, gave me a
good dinner, showed me the sights, and finally entered with some kindness and a good deal of internal amusement into what he called my case. I mentioned the existence of a small box or casket; but I thought it best not to enter upon the nature of the precious contents. I was quite as fantastic as the criminal about to be executed proved to be when he was afraid that his breakfast might disagree with him, or that he might catch cold on his way to the scaffold. Such a fantastic unreality was there in the strict reticence which I imposed on myself respecting the contents of the casket.
I asked questions about the character of the defunct house of the Godson bankers with as much anxiety as if I were about to intrust my little all into their keeping. I asked whether this valuable casket might not easily have disappeared in the process of their flitting between London and Rotterdam.
But of this he would not hear a word. They were the most careful and honourable bankers that had ever existed. Their name was still a tradition in Rotterdam.
'Of course,' said M. Bondet, 'bankers are like other people, and want to get all they can for themselves. Unclaimed property in their hands will eventually come to them, and this is a kind of loot that does not often happen to them, although of course it has very profitably happened to them on various occasions. But they are not anxious for any such loot, and no deposit would be parted with so long as there was the faintest chance in the world of its being claimed. The great Thelusson banking-house was a remarkable case. They held a great deal of property belonging to the French noblesse; but a good many of them had their heads taken off, and were unable
to claim their own. For years and years their accounts were never closed. But the French Revolution is a modern date. The English Revolution belongs to ancient history. But I can explain everything to you. The Godson Company stopped in Rotterdam for a long time. They would have gone back; but your Queen Anne came to the throne, and that revived the hopes of the
When things seemed firmly established under the House of Hanover, they went back. But after a time there was a failure of any direct representative of the family, and the last member of the family transferred the business to the well-known house of the Stukeleys. They are now London agents and correspondents; and I will, if you like, give you a letter of introduction to them. They will at least be able to assure you that your casket has been eaten all up.'
I had rather a good time of it in Holland. I went through their galleries, wondering greatly at their conceit in having hardly any pictures but their own, ignoring the schools of other countries. I went through their cleanly villages, wondering very much, however, why they did not clean their faces as well as their windows. I partook of the high-Dutch cookery, but confess that some of it was so high that it did not altogether agree with me. But the thorough change -the change of air, of people and places, of all the surroundingskept me in a constant state of high spirits; and the amusing conviction into which I had gradually nursed myself, that I was engaged in the elucidation of a great historical mystery, gave me a reserve of selfimportance on which I fell back with much complacency.
I was rather 'divided in my swift mind' as to whether I would call on the head of the firm of
Stukeley at the bank or at his private residence at Highgate. It seemed to me, however, that he might take it as more friendly and sociable if I did the latter. I considered that I might safely call between eight and nine of a summer evening, when a man is supposed to have had his dinner and to be ready for a chat. The banker's place at Highgate was one of the loveliest of English homes. A servant pointed him out to me as he was walking alone in his splendid garden, some children playing not far off from him. It was not without some wondering at my own temerity that I approached the famous banker. In my line of life we naturally regarded him as being one of the greatest people in the world. But he read his correspondent's letter with an expression of amused interest, and was very courteous. He gave me some of his fine strawberries in the summerhouse, with sherry-andselzter. When we parted, which was before very long-for I knew that the time of such a man, whether in work or in the rest that prepares for work, is worth banknotes he put his hand on my shoulder and said,
'Of course, you know, Mr. Leslie, that even if we find the casket, of which I do not think there is the slightest chance after this lapse of time, the representatives of the owner have not the smallest legal claim upon me. Still, that is nothing at all. We are not likely to plead the Statute. It is a very curious history certainly; but such a history only gets a prosperous dénouement in fiction. However, if you like to give me a call in the City in about a week's time, I shall probably be able to find some trace of the transaction. I confess that I should like to verify that extraordinary letter of which you have been speaking.'