Chapter Thirty-Nine. The Diamond Necklace

For the better part of a fortnight the sleuth-hounds of New Scotland Yard hunted for Mr. Mori Yada in all the likely and unlikely places in London and sent out their enquiries much further afield. They failed to find him. One small clue they got, with little difficulty. After the hue-and-cry was fairly out, an Edgware Road pawnbroker came forward and informed the police that at two o'clock, or thereabouts, on the afternoon of the day on which Yada had made his escape from the window, a young Japanese gentleman who gave his name as Mr. Motono and his address at a small hotel close by and who volunteered the explanation that he was temporarily short of cash until a remittance arrived, had borrowed five pounds from him on a pearl tie-pin which he had drawn from his cravat. That was Yada, without a doubt--but from that point Yada vanished.

But hunger is the cleverest detective, and at the end of the fortnight, certain officials of the Japanese embassy in London found themselves listening to a strange tale from the fugitive, who had come to the end of his loan, had nowhere to turn and no one but the representatives of his nation to whom he could appeal. Yada told a strange tale--and all the stranger because, as the police officials who were called in to hear it anew recognized that there was probably some truth in it. It amounted, when all was heard, to this--Yada was willing to confess that for a few days he had been a successful thief, but he stoutly denied that he was a murderer.

This was his story:--On the 18th November, in the evening, he was at the club which housed itself in Pilmansey's attic. There he saw Chang Li, who, according to the other members who were there, was beginning one of his periodic fits of opium smoking, and had been in the inner room, stupifying himself, since the previous day. Yada knew that it was highly necessary that Chang Li should be in attendance at certain classes at the medical school during the next few days, and tried to rouse him out of his debauch, with no result. Next day, the 19th, he went to Pilmansey's again --Chang Li was still in the realms of bliss and likely to stop there until he had had enough of them. For two days nobody at the club nor at the school had seen Chen Li--and Chen Li was the only person who could do anything with Chang. So, late that night of the 19th November, Yada went up to Maida Vale, taking Chang Li's keys with him. He admitted himself to garden and house and found the house empty. But just as he was entering the front door he heard the voice of Chen Li at the garden gate; he also heard the voice of an Englishman. Also he caught something of what that Englishman said. He was telling Chen Li that he'd better take him, the Englishman, inside, and settle with him--or things would be all the worse. And at that, he, Yada, had slipped into the house, quietly closed the front door behind him, gone into the front room, hidden himself behind a curtain and waited.

Into that front room, Chen Li had presently conducted a man. He was, said Yada, a low-class Englishman--what is called a Cockney. He had begun to threaten Chen Li at once. He told his tale. He was, said this fellow, next door neighbour to Mr. Daniel Multenius, in Praed Street, Chen Li's landlord: his name, if Chen Li wanted to know it, was Parslett, fruitier and green-grocer, and it was there, bold as brass, over his shop-door, for him or anybody to look at. He had a side-door to his house: that side-door was exactly opposite a side-door in Mr. Multenius's house, opening into his back-parlour. Now, the previous afternoon, he, Parslett, had had a consignment of very fine mushrooms sent in--rare things at that time of year--and knowing that the old man had a great taste for them and didn't mind what price he paid, he stepped across with a dish of them to tempt him. He found Mr. Multenius in his parlour--he was counting a lot of bank- notes--they must, said Parslett, have represented a large sum. The old man bade him leave the mushrooms, said he'd send him the money across presently, and motioned him out. Parslett put the dish of mushrooms aside on a chiffonier and went away. Somewhat later, chancing to be at his front door and looking out into the street, he saw Chen Li open the door of Multenius's shop and go swiftly away. Half-an-hour after that he heard that something had happened at Multenius's--later in the evening he heard definitely that the old man had been assaulted under circumstances which pointed to murder for the sake of robbery. And then he, Parslett, now put two and two together--and had fixed on Chen Li as the culprit. And now-- how much, was Chen Li going to pay for silence?

According to Yada, Chen Li had had little to say--his chief anxiety, indeed, had been to find out what the man wanted. Parslett was definite enough about that. He wanted a thousand pounds--and he wanted it in gold, and as much of it as Chen Li could hand out there and then. He refused to believe that Chen Li hadn't gold in considerable quantity somewhere about --he must, said Parslett, have changed some of those notes since he had stolen them the previous day. Chen Li protested that he had but some fifty or sixty pounds in gold available--but he promised to have the rest of the thousand ready on the following evening. Finally, he handed Parslett fifty pounds, arranged that he should call the next night--and then invited him to take a drink. Parslett pocketed the money and accepted the invitation-- and Yada, from his hiding-place, saw Chen Li go to the sideboard, mix whisky and soda and pour into the mixture a few drops from a phial which he took from his waistcoat pocket. Parslett drank off the contents of the glass--and Chen Li went down to the gate with him.

Yada followed to the front door and, through a slight opening, watched. The garden was fairly well lighted by the moon, which had recently risen. He saw Chen Li let the man out. He saw him turn from the gate and slowly come back towards the house. And then he saw something else--the sudden spring, from behind a big laurel bush, of a man--a short-statured, slight- figured man, who leapt on Chen Li with the agility of a panther. He saw the flash of a knife in the moonlight--he heard a muffled cry, and startled groan--and saw Chen Li pitch forward and lie evidently lifeless, where he fell. He saw the assailant stoop, seize his victim by the shoulders and drag him behind the shrubbery. Then, without further delay, the murderer hurried to the gate. Evidently assured himself that there was no one about, let himself out, and was gone.

By all the solemn oaths that he could think of, Yada swore that this was true. Of another thing he was certain--the murderer was a Chinese.

Now began his own career of crime. He was just then very hard up. He had spent much more than his allowance--he was in debt at his lodgings and elsewhere. Somewhere, he felt sure, there was, in that house, the money which Chen Li had evidently stolen from old Multenius. He immediately set to work to find it. But he had no difficulty--the bank-notes were in the drawer from which he had seen Chen Li take the gold which he had given to the blackmailer, Parslett. He hurriedly transferred them to his own pocket, and got away from the house by the door at the back of the garden --and it was not until late that night, in the privacy of his own rooms, that he found he had nearly eighty thousand pounds in his possession.

For some days, said Yada, he was at a loss what to do with his booty. He was afraid of attempting to change five hundred pound notes. He made cautious enquiries as to how that could be done--and he began to think that the notes were so much waste paper to him. And then Ayscough called on him--and for the first time, he heard the story of the orange-yellow diamond.

That gave him an idea. He had a very accurate knowledge of Chinese habits and characteristics, and he felt sure that Chen Li would have hidden that diamond in his pig-tail. So he took advantage of his possession of the detective's card to go to the mortuary, to get a minute or two alone with the body, and to slip his hand underneath the dead man's silk cap. There he found the diamond--and he knew that whether the bank-notes were to be of any value to him or not, the diamond would be if he could only escape to the Continent.

But--he wanted funds; wanted them badly. He thereupon conceived the bold idea of getting a reward for his knowledge. He went to the police-station with a merely modest motive in his mind--fifty pounds would carry him to Vienna, where he knew how to dispose of the diamond at once, with no questions asked. But when he found the owners of the diamond and the bank- notes present he decided to play for higher stakes. He got what he asked for--and, if it had not been for that little Jew, he said malevolently, he would have got out of England that eventful afternoon. But--it was not so written--and the game was up. Only--what he had said was true. Now let them do what they could for him--but let them search for Chen Li's murderer.

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The folk who had been chiefly concerned about the orange-yellow diamond and the eighty thousand pounds' worth of Bank of England notes were not so much troubled about proving the truth of Yada's strange story as Yada himself was--the main point to them was that they had recovered their property. Naturally they felt remarkably grateful to Melky Rubinstein for his astuteness in circumventing Yada at what might have been the last moment. And one day, at that portion of it when business was slack and everybody was feeling comfortable after dinner, Melky called on Mrs. Goldmark and became confidentially closeted with her in a little parlour behind her establishment which she kept sacred to herself. Mrs. Goldmark, who had quick eyes, noticed that Melky was wearing his best clothes, and a new silk hat, and new gloves, and had put his feet into patent-leather boots which she secretly and sympathizingly--felt to be at least a size too small for him. He sighed as he sat near her on the sofa--and Mrs. Goldmark looked at him with concern.

"Such a time you have lately, Mr. Rubinstein, don't you?" she said feelingly. "Such worries--such troubles! And the risk you ran taking that wicked young man all by yourself--so brave of you! You'd ought to have one of these medals what they give to folks, so!"

"You think that?" responded Melky, brightening suspiciously. "Oh, Mrs. Goldmark, your words is like wine--all my life I been wishing some beautiful woman would say them things to me! Now I feel like I was two foot taller, Mrs. Goldmark! But I don't want no medals--not me. Mr. Levendale and Mr. Purvis, they came to me and say they must give me a reward--handsome reward, you understand, for getting back their goods. So I say no--I won't have nothing for myself--nothing. But, I say, just so-- there is one that should be rewarded. Mrs. Goldmark!--do you know what? I think of you when I say that!"

Mrs. Goldmark uttered a feeble scream, clasped her hands, and stared at Melky out of her melting eyes.

"Me?" she exclaimed. "Why--I ain't done nothing, Mr. Rubinstein!"

"Listen to me," persisted Melky. "What I says to Mr. Levendale is this here--if Mrs. Goldmark hadn't had her eating establishment, and if Mr. Purvis hadn't gone into it to eat a chop and to drop his platinum solitaire on the table, and if Mrs. Goldmark hadn't taken care of that platinum solitaire, and if things hadn't sprung from it--eh, what then, I should like to know? So Mrs. Goldmark is entitled to whatever little present there is!--that's how I put it, Mrs. Goldmark. And Mr. Levendale and Mr. Purvis, they agreed with me--and oh, Mrs. Goldmark, ain't you going to be nice and let me put this round your beautiful neck?"

Mrs. Goldmark screamed again as Melky produced a diamond necklace, lying in a blue velvet bed in a fine morocco case. The glitter of the diamonds turned both beholders hoarse with emotion.

"Do you know what, Mrs. Goldmark!" whispered Melky. "It cost a thousand guineas--and no error! Now you bend your lovely head, and I puts it on you--oh, ain't you more beautiful than the Queen of Sheba! And ain't you Melky's queen, Mrs. Goldmark--say you was!"

"Lor', Mr. Rubinstein!" said Mrs. Goldmark, coyly. "It's as if you was proposing to me!"

"Why, ain't I?" exclaimed Melky, gathering courage. "Don't you see I'm in all my best clothes? Ain't it nothing but weddings, just now? There's Mr. Lauriston a-going to marry Zillah, and Mr. Purdie's a-fixing it up with Levendale's governess, and--oh, Mrs. Goldmark, ain't I worshipped you every time I come to eat my dinner in your eating house? Ain't you the loveliest woman in all Paddington. Say the word, Mrs. Goldmark--don't you see I'm like as if I was that hungry I could eat you?"

Then Mrs. Goldmark said the word--and presently escaped from Melky's embrace to look at herself and her necklace in the mirror.