Pugh came into my room holding something wrapped in a piece of
"Tress, I have brought you something on which you may exercise your
ingenuity." He began, with exasperating deliberation, to untie the
string which bound his parcel; he is one of those persons who would
not cut a knot to save their lives. The process occupied him the
better part of a quarter of an hour. Then he held out the contents
of the paper.
"What do you think of that?" he asked. I thought nothing of it,
and I told him so. "I was prepared for that confession. I have
noticed, Tress, that you generally do think nothing of an article
which really deserves the attention of a truly thoughtful mind.
Possibly, as you think so little of it, you will be able to solve the
I took what he held out to me. It was an oblong box, perhaps seven
inches long by three inches broad.
"Where's the puzzle?" I asked.
"If you will examine the lid of the box, you will see." I turned
it over and over; it was difficult to see which was the lid. Then I
perceived that on one side were printed these words:
"PUZZLE: TO OPEN THE BOX"
The words were so faintly printed that it was not surprising that I
had not noticed them at first. Pugh explained.
"I observed that box on a tray outside a second-hand furniture
shop. It struck my eye. I took it up. I examined it. I inquired
of the proprietor of the shop in what the puzzle lay. He replied
that that was more than he could tell me. He himself had made
several attempts to open the box, and all of them had failed. I
purchased it. I took it home. I have tried, and I have failed. I
am aware, Tress, of how you pride yourself upon your ingenuity. I
cannot doubt that, if you try, you will not fail."
While Pugh was prosing, I was examining the box. It was at least
well made. It weighed certainly under two ounces. I struck it with
my knuckles; it sounded hollow. There was no hinge; nothing of any
kind to show that it ever had been opened, or, for the matter of that,
that it ever could be opened. The more I examined the thing, the more
it whetted my curiosity. That it could be opened, and in some
ingenious manner, I made no doubtbut how?
The box was not a new one. At a rough guess I should say that it
had been a box for a good half century; there were certain signs of
age about it which could not escape a practiced eye. Had it remained
unopened all that time? When opened, what would be found inside? It
SOUNDED hollow; probably nothing at allwho could tell?
It was formed of small pieces of inlaid wood. Several woods had
been used; some of them were strange to me. They were of different
colors; it was pretty obvious that they must all of them have been
hard woods. The pieces were of various shapeshexagonal, octagonal,
triangular, square, oblong, and even circular. The process of
inlaying them had been beautifully done. So nicely had the parts been
joined that the lines of meeting were difficult to discover with the
naked eye; they had been joined solid, so to speak. It was an
excellent example of marquetry. I had been over- hasty in my
deprecation; I owed as much to Pugh.
"This box of yours is better worth looking at than I first
supposed. Is it to be sold?"
"No, it is not to be sold. Nor"he "fixed" me with his
spectacles"is it to be given away. I have brought it to you for
the simple purpose of ascertaining if you have ingenuity enough to
"I will engage to open it in two secondswith a hammer."
"I dare say. I will open it with a hammer. The thing is to open
"Let me see." I began, with the aid of a microscope, to examine
the box more closely. "I will give you one piece of information,
Pugh. Unless I am mistaken, the secret lies in one of these little
pieces of inlaid wood. You push it, or you press it, or something,
and the whole affair flies open."
"Such was my own first conviction. I am not so sure of it now. I
have pressed every separate piece of wood; I have tried to move each
piece in every direction. No result has followed. My theory was a
"But there must be a hidden spring of some sort, unless you are to
open it by a mere exercise of force. I suppose the box is empty."
"I thought it was at first, but now I am not so sure of that
either. It all depends on the position in which you hold it. Hold
it in this positionlike thisclose to your ear. Have you a small
hammer?" I took a small hammer. "Tap it softly, with the hammer.
Don't you notice a sort of reverberation within?"
Pugh was right, there certainly was something within; something
which seemed to echo back my tapping, almost as if it were a living
thing. I mentioned this, to Pugh.
"But you don't think that there is something alive inside the box?
There can't be. The box must be airtight, probably as much air-
tight as an exhausted receiver."
"How do we know that? How can we tell that no minute interstices
have been left for the express purpose of ventilation?" I continued
tapping with the hammer. I noticed one peculiarity, that it was only
when I held the box in a particular position, and tapped at a certain
spot, there came the answering taps from within. "I tell you what it
is, Pugh, what I hear is the reverberation of some machinery."
"Do you think so?"
"I'm sure of it."
"Give the box to me." Pugh put the box to his ear. He tapped.
"It sounds to me like the echoing tick, tick of some great beetle;
like the sort of noise which a deathwatch makes, you know."
Trust Pugh to find a remarkable explanation for a simple fact; if
the explanation leans toward the supernatural, so much the more
satisfactory to Pugh. I knew better.
"The sound which you hear is merely the throbbing or the trembling
of the mechanism with which it is intended that the box should be
opened. The mechanism is placed just where you are tapping it with
the hammer. Every tap causes it to jar."
"It sounds to me like the ticking of a deathwatch. However, on
such subjects, Tress, I know what you are."
"My dear Pugh, give it an extra hard tap, and you will see."
He gave it an extra hard tap. The moment he had done so, he
"I've done it now."
"What have you done?"
"Broken something, I fancy." He listened intently, with his ear to
the box. "Noit seems all right. And yet I could have sworn I had
damaged something; I heard it smash."
"Give me the box." He gave it me. In my turn, I listened. I
shook the box. Pugh must have been mistaken. Nothing rattled; there
was not a sound; the box was as empty as before. I gave a smart tap
with the hammer, as Pugh had done. Then there certainly was a curious
sound. To my ear, it sounded like the smashing of glass. "I wonder
if there is anything fragile inside your precious puzzle, Pugh, and,
if so, if we are shivering it by degrees?"
"What IS that noise?"
I lay in bed in that curious condition which is between sleep and
waking. When, at last, I KNEW that I was awake, I asked myself what
it was that had woke me. Suddenly I became conscious that something
was making itself audible in the silence of the night. For some
seconds I lay and listened. Then I sat up in bed.
"What IS that noise?"
It was like the tick, tick of some large and unusually clear-toned
clock. It might have been a clock, had it not been that the sound
was varied, every half dozen ticks or so, by a sort of stifled
screech, such as might have been uttered by some small creature in an
extremity of anguish. I got out of bed; it was ridiculous to think of
sleep during the continuation of that uncanny shrieking. I struck a
light. The sound seemed to come from the neighborhood of my
dressing-table. I went to the dressing-table, the lighted match in my
hand, and, as I did so, my eyes fell on Pugh's mysterious box. That
same instant there issued, from the bowels of the box, a more
uncomfortable screech than any I had previously heard. It took me so
completely by surprise that I let the match fall from my hand to the
floor. The room was in darkness. I stood, I will not say trembling,
listeningconsidering their volumeto the EERIEST shrieks I ever
heard. All at once they ceased. Then came the tick, tick, tick
again. I struck another match and lit the gas.
Pugh had left his puzzle box behind him. We had done all we could,
together, to solve the puzzle. He had left it behind to see what I
could do with it alone. So much had it engrossed my attention that I
had even brought it into my bedroom, in order that I might, before
retiring to rest, make a final attempt at the solution of the mystery.
NOW what possessed the thing?
As I stood, and looked, and listened, one thing began to be clear
to me, that some sort of machinery had been set in motion inside the
box. How it had been set in motion was another matter. But the box
had been subjected to so much handling, to such pressing and such
hammering, that it was not strange if, after all, Pugh or I had
unconsciously hit upon the spring which set the whole thing going.
Possibly the mechanism had got so rusty that it had refused to act at
once. It had hung fire, and only after some hours had something or
other set the imprisoned motive power free.
But what about the screeching? Could there be some living creature
concealed within the box? Was I listening to the cries of some small
animal in agony? Momentary reflection suggested that the explanation
of the one thing was the explanation of the other. Rust!there was
the mystery. The same rust which had prevented the mechanism from
acting at once was causing the screeching now. The uncanny sounds were
caused by nothing more nor less than the want of a drop or two of oil.
Such an explanation would not have satisfied Pugh, it satisfied me.
Picking up the box, I placed it to my ear.
"I wonder how long this little performance is going to continue.
And what is going to happen when it is good enough to cease? I
hope"an uncomfortable thought occurred to me"I hope Pugh hasn't
picked up some pleasant little novelty in the way of an infernal
machine. It would be a first-rate joke if he and I had been
endeavoring to solve the puzzle of how to set it going."
I don't mind owning that as this reflection crossed my mind I
replaced Pugh's puzzle on the dressing-table. The idea did not
commend itself to me at all. The box evidently contained some
curious mechanism. It might be more curious than comfortable.
Possibly some agreeable little device in clockwork. The tick, tick,
tick suggested clockwork which had been planned to go a certain time,
and thenthen, for all I knew, ignite an explosive, andblow up. It
would be a charming solution to the puzzle if it were to explode while
I stood there, in my nightshirt, looking on. It is true that the box
weighed very little. Probably, as I have said, the whole affair would
not have turned the scale at a couple of ounces. But then its very
lightness might have been part of the ingenious inventor's little
game. There are explosives with which one can work a very
satisfactory amount of damage with considerably less than a couple of
While I was hesitatingI own it!whether I had not better immerse
Pugh's puzzle in a can of water, or throw it out of the window, or
call down Bob with a request to at once remove it to his apartment,
both the tick, tick, tick, and the screeching ceased, and all within
the box was still. If it WAS going to explode, it was now or never.
Instinctively I moved in the direction of the door.
I waited with a certain sense of anxiety. I waited in vain.
Nothing happened, not even a renewal of the sound.
"I wish Pugh had kept his precious puzzle at home. This sort of
thing tries one's nerves."
When I thought that I perceived that nothing seemed likely to
happen, I returned to the neighborhood of the table. I looked at the
box askance. I took it up gingerly. Something might go off at any
moment for all I knew. It would be too much of a joke if Pugh's
precious puzzle exploded in my hand. I shook it doubtfully; nothing
rattled. I held it to my ear. There was not a sound. What had taken
place? Had the clockwork run down, and was the machine arranged with
such a diabolical ingenuity that a certain interval was required,
after the clockwork had run down, before an explosion could occur? Or
had rust caused the mechanism to again hang fire?
"After making all that commotion the thing might at least come
open." I banged the box viciously against the corner of the table. I
felt that I would almost rather that an explosion should take place
than that nothing should occur. One does not care to be disturbed
from one's sound slumber in the small hours of the morning for a
"I've half a mind to get a hammer, and try, as they say in the
cookery books, another way."
Unfortunately I had promised Pugh to abstain from using force. I
might have shivered the box open with my hammer, and then explained
that it had fallen, or got trod upon, or sat upon, or something, and
so got shattered, only I was afraid that Pugh would not believe me.
The man is himself such an untruthful man that he is in a chronic
state of suspicion about the truthfulness of others.
"Well, if you're not going to blow up, or open, or something, I'll
say good night."
I gave the box a final rap with my knuckles and a final shake,
replaced it on the table, put out the gas, and returned to bed.
I was just sinking again into slumber, when that box began again.
It was true that Pugh had purchased the puzzle, but it was evident
that the whole enjoyment of the purchase was destined to be mine. It
was useless to think of sleep while that performance was going on. I
sat up in bed once more.
"It strikes me that the puzzle consists in finding out how it is
possible to go to sleep with Pugh's purchase in your bedroom. This
is far better than the old-fashioned prescription of cats on the
It struck me the noise was distinctly louder than before; this
applied both to the tick, tick, tick, and the screeching.
"Possibly," I told myself, as I relighted the gas, "the explosion
is to come off this time."
I turned to look at the box. There could be no doubt about it; the
noise was louder. And, if I could trust my eyes, the box was
movinggiving a series of little jumps. This might have been an
optical delusion, but it seemed to me that at each tick the box gave
a little bound. During the screecheswhich sounded more like the
cries of an animal in an agony of pain even than beforeif it did not
tilt itself first on one end, and then on another, I shall never be
willing to trust the evidence of my own eyes again. And surely the
box had increased in size; I could have sworn not only that it had
increased, but that it was increasing, even as I stood there looking
on. It had grown, and still was growing, both broader, and longer,
and deeper. Pugh, of course, would have attributed it to supernatural
agency; there never was a man with such a nose for a ghost. I could
picture him occupying my position, shivering in his nightshirt, as he
beheld that miracle taking place before his eyes. The solution which
at once suggested itself to meand which would NEVER have suggested
itself to Pugh! was that the box was fashioned, as it were, in
layers, and that the ingenious mechanism it contained was forcing the
sides at once both upward and outward. I took it in my hand. I could
feel something striking against the bottom of the box, like the tap,
tap, tapping of a tiny hammer.
"This is a pretty puzzle of Pugh's. He would say that that is the
tapping of a deathwatch. For my part I have not much faith in
deathwatches, et hoc genus omne, but it certainly is a curious
tapping; I wonder what is going to happen next?"
Apparently nothing, except a continuation of those mysterious
sounds. That the box had increased in size I had, and have, no doubt
whatever. I should say that it had increased a good inch in every
direction, at least half an inch while I had been looking on. But
while I stood looking its growth was suddenly and perceptibly stayed;
it ceased to move. Only the noise continued.
"I wonder how long it will be before anything worth happening does
happen! I suppose something is going to happen; there can't be all
this to-do for nothing. If it is anything in the infernal machine
line, and there is going to be an explosion, I might as well be here
to see it. I think I'll have a pipe."
I put on my dressing-gown. I lit my pipe. I sat and stared at the
box. I dare say I sat there for quite twenty minutes when, as
before, without any sort of warning, the sound was stilled. Its
sudden cessation rather startled me.
"Has the mechanism again hung fire? Or, this time, is the
explosion coming off?" It did not come off; nothing came off. "Isn't
the box even going to open?"
It did not open. There was simply silence all at once, and that
was all. I sat there in expectation for some moments longer. But I
sat for nothing. I rose. I took the box in my hand. I shook it.
"This puzzle IS a puzzle." I held the box first to one ear, then
to the other. I gave it several sharp raps with my knuckles. There
was not an answering sound, not even the sort of reverberation which
Pugh and I had noticed at first. It seemed hollower than ever. It
was as though the soul of the box was dead. "I suppose if I put you
down, and extinguish the gas and return to bed, in about half an hour
or so, just as I am dropping off to sleep, the performance will be
recommenced. Perhaps the third time will be lucky."
But I was mistakenthere was no third time. When I returned to
bed that time I returned to sleep, and I was allowed to sleep; there
was no continuation of the performance, at least so far as I know.
For no sooner was I once more between the sheets than I was seized
with an irresistible drowsiness, a drowsiness which so mastered me
that II imagine it must have been instantlysank into slumber which
lasted till long after day had dawned. Whether or not any more
mysterious sounds issued from the bowels of Pugh's puzzle is more than
I can tell. If they did, they did not succeed in rousing me.
And yet, when at last I did awake, I had a sort of consciousness
that my waking had been caused by something strange. What it was I
could not surmise. My own impression was that I had been awakened by
the touch of a person's hand. But that impression must have been a
mistaken one, because, as I could easily see by looking round the
room, there was no one in the room to touch me.
It was broad daylight. I looked at my watch; it was nearly eleven
o'clock. I am a pretty late sleeper as a rule, but I do not usually
sleep as late as that. That scoundrel Bob would let me sleep all day
without thinking it necessary to call me. I was just about to spring
out of bed with the intention of ringing the bell so that I might give
Bob a piece of my mind for allowing me to sleep so late, when my
glance fell on the dressing-table on which, the night before, I had
placed Pugh's puzzle. It had gone!
Its absence so took me by surprise that I ran to the table. It HAD
gone. But it had not gone far; it had gone to pieces! There were
the pieces lying where the box had been. The puzzle had solved
itself. The box was open, open with a vengeance, one might say. Like
that unfortunate Humpty Dumpty, who, so the chroniclers tell us, sat
on a wall, surely "all the king's horses and all the king's men" never
could put Pugh's puzzle together again!
The marquetry had resolved itself into its component parts. How
those parts had ever been joined was a mystery. They had been laid
upon no foundation, as is the case with ordinary inlaid work. The
several pieces of wood were not only of different shapes and sizes,
but they were as thin as the thinnest veneer; yet the box had been
formed by simply joining them together. The man who made that box
must have been possessed of ingenuity worthy of a better cause.
I perceived how the puzzle had been worked. The box had contained
an arrangement of springs, which, on being released, had expanded
themselves in different directions until their mere expansion had
rent the box to pieces. There were the springs, lying amid the ruin
they had caused.
There was something else amid that ruin besides those springs;
there was a small piece of writing paper. I took it up. On the
reverse side of it was written in a minute, crabbed hand: "A Present
For You." What was a present for me? I looked, and, not for the
first time since I had caught sight of Pugh's precious puzzle, could
scarcely believe my eyes.
There, poised between two upright wires, the bent ends of which
held it aloft in the air, was either a piece of glass ora crystal.
The scrap of writing paper had exactly covered it. I understood what
it was, when Pugh and I had tapped with the hammer, had caused the
answering taps to proceed from within. Our taps caused the wires to
oscillate, and in these oscillations the crystal, which they held
suspended, had touched the side of the box.
I looked again at the piece of paper. "A Present For You." Was
THIS the presentthis crystal? I regarded it intently.
"It CAN'T be a diamond."
The idea was ridiculous, absurd. No man in his senses would place
a diamond inside a twopenny-halfpenny puzzle box. The thing was as
big as a walnut! And yetI am a pretty good judge of precious
stonesif it was not an uncut diamond it was the best imitation I
had seen. I took it up. I examined it closely. The more closely I
examined it, the more my wonder grew.
"It IS a diamond!"
And yet the idea was too preposterous for credence. Who would
present a diamond as big as a walnut with a trumpery puzzle? Besides,
all the diamonds which the world contains of that size are almost as
well known as the Koh-i-noor.
"If it is a diamond, it is worthit is worthHeaven only knows
what it isn't worth if it's a diamond."
I regarded it through a strong pocket lens. As I did so I could
not restrain an exclamation.
"The world to a China orange, it IS a diamond!"
The words had scarcely escaped my lips than there came a tapping at
"Come in!" I cried, supposing it was Bob. It was not Bob, it was
Pugh. Instinctively I put the lens and the crystal behind my back.
At sight of me in my nightshirt Pugh began to shake his head.
"What hours, Tress, what hours! Why, my dear Tress, I've
breakfasted, read the papers and my letters, came all the way from my
house here, and you're not up!"
"Don't I look as though I were up?"
"Ah, Tress! Tress!" He approached the dressing-table. His eye
fell upon the ruins. "What's this?"
"That's the solution to the puzzle."
"Have youhave you solved it fairly, Tress?"
"It has solved itself. Our handling, and tapping, and hammering
must have freed the springs which the box contained, and during the
night, while I slept, they have caused it to come open."
"While you slept? Dear me! How strange! Andwhat are these?"
He had discovered the two upright wires on which the crystal had
"I suppose they're part of the puzzle."
"And was there anything in the box? What's this?" he picked up the
scrap of paper; I had left it on the table. He read what was written
on it: "'A Present For You.' What's it mean? Tress, was this in the
"What's it mean about a present? Was there anything in the box
"Pugh, if you will leave the room I shall be able to dress; I am
not in the habit of receiving quite such early calls, or I should
have been prepared to receive you. If you will wait in the next
room, I will be with you as soon as I'm dressed. There is a little
subject in connection with the box which I wish to discuss with you."
"A subject in connection with the box? What is the subject?"
"I will tell you, Pugh, when I have performed my toilet."
"Why can't you tell me now?"
"Do you propose, then, that I should stand here shivering in my
shirt while you are prosing at your ease? Thank you; I am obliged,
but I decline. May I ask you once more, Pugh, to wait for me in the
He moved toward the door. When he had taken a couple of steps, he
"II hope, Tress, that you'reyou're going to play no tricks on
"Tricks on you! Is it likely that I am going to play tricks upon
my oldest friend?"
When he had gonehe vanished, it seemed to me, with a somewhat
doubtful visageI took the crystal to the window. I drew the blind.
I let the sunshine fall on it. I examined it again, closely and
minutely, with the aid of my pocket lens. It WAS a diamond; there
could not be a doubt of it. If, with my knowledge of stones, I was
deceived, then I was deceived as never man had been deceived before.
My heart beat faster as I recognized the fact that I was holding in
my hand what was, in all probability, a fortune for a man of moderate
desires. Of course, Pugh knew nothing of what I had discovered, and
there was no reason why he should know. Not the least! The only
difficulty was that if I kept my own counsel, and sold the stone and
utilized the proceeds of the sale, I should have to invent a story
which would account for my sudden accession to fortune. Pugh knows
almost as much of my affairs as I do myself. That is the worst of
these old friends!
When I joined Pugh I found him dancing up and down the floor like a
bear upon hot plates. He scarcely allowed me to put my nose inside
the door before attacking me.
"Tress, give me what was in the box."
"My dear Pugh, how do you know that there was something in the box
to give you?"
"I know there was!"
"Indeed! If you know that there was something in the box, perhaps
you will tell me what that something was."
He eyed me doubtfully. Then, advancing, he laid upon my arm a hand
which positively trembled.
"Tress, youyou wouldn't play tricks on an old friend."
"You are right, Pugh, I wouldn't, though I believe there have been
occasions on which you have had doubts upon the subject. By the way,
Pugh, I believe that I am the oldest friend you have."
"II don't know about that. There'sthere's Brasher."
"Brasher! Who's Brasher? You wouldn't compare my friendship to
the friendship of such a man as Brasher? Think of the tastes we have
in common, you and I. We're both collectors."
"Ye-es, we're both collectors."
"I make my interests yours, and you make your interests mine.
Isn't that so, Pugh?"
"Tress, whatwhat was in the box?"
"I will be frank with you, Pugh. If there had been something in
the box, would you have been willing to go halves with me in my
"Go halves! In your discovery, Tress! Give me what is mine!"
"With pleasure, Pugh, if you will tell me what is yours."
"Ifif you don't give me what was in the box I'llI'll send for
"Do! Then I shall be able to hand to them what was in the box in
order that it may be restored to its proper owner."
"Its proper owner! I'm its proper owner!"
"Excuse me, but I don't understand how that can be; at least, until
the police have made inquiries. I should say that the proper owner
was the person from whom you purchased the box, or, more probably,
the person from whom he purchased it, and by whom, doubtless, it was
sold in ignorance, or by mistake. Thus, Pugh, if you will only send
for the police, we shall earn the gratitude of a person of whom we
never heard in our livesI for discovering the contents of the box,
and you for returning them."
As I said this, Pugh's face was a study. He gasped for breath. He
actually took out his handkerchief to wipe his brow.
"Tress, II don't think you need to use a tone like that to me.
It isn't friendly. Whatwhat was in the box?"
"Let us understand each other, Pugh. If you don't hand over what
was in the box to the police, I go halves."
Pugh began to dance about the floor.
"What a fool I was to trust you with the box! I knew I couldn't
trust you." I said nothing. I turned and rang the bell. "What's
"That, my dear Pugh, is for breakfast, and, if you desire it, for
the police. You know, although you have breakfasted, I haven't.
Perhaps while I am breaking my fast, you would like to summon the
representatives of law and order." Bob came in. I ordered
breakfast. Then I turned to Pugh. "Is there anything you would
"No, II've breakfasted."
"It wasn't of breakfast I was thinking. It was ofsomething else.
Bob is at your service, if, for instance, you wish to send him on an
"No, I want nothing. Bob can go." Bob went. Directly he was
gone, Pugh turned to me. "You shall have half. What was in the
"I shall have half?"
"I don't think it is necessary that the terms of our little
understanding should be expressly embodied in black and white. I
fancy that, under the circumstance, I can trust you, Pugh. I believe
that I am capable of seeing that, in this matter, you don't do me.
That was in the box."
I held out the crystal between my finger and thumb.
"What is it?"
"That is what I desire to learn."
"Let me look at it."
"You are welcome to look at it where it is. Look at it as long as
you like, and as closely."
Pugh leaned over my hand. His eyes began to gleam. He is himself
not a bad judge of precious stones, is Pugh.
"It'sit'sTress!is it a diamond?"
"That question I have already asked myself."
"Let me look at it! It will be safe with me! It's mine!"
I immediately put the thing behind my back.
"Pardon me, it belongs neither to you nor to me. It belongs, in
all probability, to the person who sold that puzzle to the man from
whom you bought itperhaps some weeping widow, Pugh, or hopeless
orphanthink of it. Let us have no further misunderstanding upon
that point, my dear old friend. Still, because you are my dear old
friend, I am willing to trust you with this discovery of mine, on
condition that you don't attempt to remove it from my sight, and that
you return it to me the moment I require you."
"You'reyou're very hard on me." I made a movement toward my
waistcoat pocket. "I'll return it to you!"
I handed him the crystal, and with it I handed him my pocket lens.
"With the aid of that glass I imagine that you will be able to
subject it to a more acute examination, Pugh."
He began to examine it through the lens. Directly he did so, he
gave an exclamation. In a few moments he looked up at me. His eyes
were glistening behind his spectacles. I could see he trembled.
"Tress, it'sit's a diamond, a Brazil diamond. It's worth a
"I'm glad you think so."
"Glad I think so! Don't you think that it's a diamond?"
"It appears to be a diamond. Under ordinary conditions I should
say, without hesitation, that it was a diamond. But when I consider
the circumstances of its discovery, I am driven to doubts. How much
did you give for that puzzle, Pugh?"
"Ninepence; the fellow wanted a shilling, but I gave him ninepence.
He seemed content."
"Ninepence! Does it seem reasonable that we should find a diamond,
which, if it is a diamond, is the finest stone I ever saw and
handled, in a ninepenny puzzle? It is not as though it had got into
the thing by accident, it had evidently been placed there to be found,
and, apparently, by anyone who chanced to solve the puzzle; witness
the writing on the scrap of paper."
Pugh re-examined the crystal.
"It is a diamond! I'll stake my life that it's a diamond!"
"Still, though it be a diamond, I smell a rat!"
"What do you mean?"
"I strongly suspect that the person who placed that diamond inside
that puzzle intended to have a joke at the expense of the person who
discovered it. What was to be the nature of the joke is more than I
can say at present, but I should like to have a bet with you that the
man who compounded that puzzle was an ingenious practical joker. I
may be wrong, Pugh; we shall see. But, until I have proved the
contrary, I don't believe that the maddest man that ever lived would
throw away a diamond worth, apparently, shall we say a thousand
"A thousand pounds! This diamond is worth a good deal more than a
"Well, that only makes my case the stronger; I don't believe that
the maddest man that ever lived would throw away a diamond worth more
than a thousand pounds with such utter wantonness as seems to have
characterized the action of the original owner of the stone which I
found in your ninepenny puzzle, Pugh."
"There have been some eccentric characters in the world, some very
eccentric characters. However, as you say, we shall see. I fancy
that I know somebody who would be quite willing to have such a
diamond as this, and who, moreover, would be willing to pay a fair
price for its possession; I will take it to him and see what he
"Pugh, hand me back that diamond."
"My dear Tress, I was only going"
Bob came in with the breakfast tray.
"Pugh, you will either hand me that at once, or Bob shall summon
the representatives of law and order."
He handed me the diamond. I sat down to breakfast with a hearty
appetite. Pugh stood and scowled at me.
"Joseph Tress, it is my solemn conviction, and I have no hesitation
in saying so in plain English, that you're a thief."
"My dear Pugh, it seems to me that we show every promise of
becoming a couple of thieves."
"Don't bracket me with you!"
"Not at all, you are worse than I. It is you who decline to return
the contents of the box to its proper owner. Put it to yourself, you
have SOME common sense, my dear old friend Ido you suppose that a
diamond worth more than a thousand pounds is to be HONESTLY bought for
He resumed his old trick of dancing about the room.
"I was a fool ever to let you have the box! I ought to have known
better than to have trusted you; goodness knows you have given me
sufficient cause to mistrust you! Over and over again! Your
character is only too notorious! You have plundered friend and foe
alikefriend and foe alike! As for the rubbish which you call your
collection, nine tenths of it, I know as a positive fact, you have
stolen out and out."
"Who stole my Sir Walter Raleigh pipe? Wasn't it a man named
"Look here, Joseph Tress!"
"Oh, it's no good talking to you, not the least! You'reyou're
dead to all the promptings of conscience! May I inquire, Mr. Tress,
what it is you propose to do?"
"I PROPOSE to do nothing, except summon the representatives of law
and order. Failing that, my dear Pugh, I had some faint, vague, very
vague idea of taking the contents of your ninepenny puzzle to a
certain firm in Hatton Garden, who are dealers in precious stones, and
to learn from them if they are disposed to give anything for it, and
if so, what."
"I shall come with you."
"With pleasure, on condition that you pay the cab."
"I pay the cab! I will pay half."
"Not at all. You will either pay the whole fare, or else I will
have one cab and you shall have another. It is a three-shilling cab
fare from here to Hatton Garden. If you propose to share my cab, you
will be so good as to hand over that three shillings before we start."
He gasped, but he handed over the three shillings. There are few
things I enjoy so much as getting money out of Pugh!
On the road to Hatton Garden we wrangled nearly all the way. I own
that I feel a certain satisfaction in irritating Pugh, he is such an
irritable man. He wanted to know what I thought we should get for the
"You can't expect to get much for the contents of a ninepenny
puzzle, not even the price of a cab fare, Pugh."
He eyed me, but for some minutes he was silent. Then he began
"Tress, I don't think we ought to let it go for less thanthan
five thousand pounds."
"Seriously, Pugh, I doubt whether, when the whole affair is ended,
we shall get five thousand pence for it, or, for the matter of that,
five thousand farthings."
"But why not? Why not? It's a magnificent stonemagnificent!
I'll stake my life on it."
I tapped my breast with the tips of my fingers.
"There's a warning voice within my breast that ought to be in
yours, Pugh! Something tells me, perhaps it is the unusually strong
vein of common sense which I possess, that the contents of your
ninepenny puzzle will be found to be a magnificent doan ingenious
practical joke, my friend."
"I don't believe it."
But I think he did; at any rate, I had unsettled the foundations of
We entered the Hatton Garden office side by side; in his anxiety
not to let me get before him, Pugh actually clung to my arm. The
office was divided into two parts by a counter which ran from wall to
wall. I advanced to a man who stood on the other side of this
"I want to sell you a diamond."
"WE want to sell you a diamond," interpolated Pugh.
I turned to Pugh. I "fixed" him with my glance.
"I want to sell you a diamond. Here it is. What will you give me
Taking the crystal from my waistcoat pocket I handed it to the man
on the other side of the counter. Directly he got it between his
fingers, and saw that it was that he had got, I noticed a sudden
gleam come into his eyes.
"This isthis is rather a fine stone."
Pugh nudged my arm.
"I told you so." I paid no attention to Pugh. "What will you give
me for it?"
"Do you mean, what will I give you for it cash down upon the nail?"
"Just sowhat will you give me for it cash down upon the nail?"
The man turned the crystal over and over in his fingers. "Well,
that's rather a large order. We don't often get a chance of buying
such a stone as this across the counter. What do you say towell
to ten thousand pounds?"
Ten thousand pounds! It was beyond my wildest imaginings. Pugh
gasped. He lurched against the counter.
"Ten thousand pounds!" he echoed.
The man on the other side glanced at him, I thought, a little
"If you can give me references, or satisfy me in any way as to your
bona fides, I am prepared to give you for this diamond an open check
for ten thousand pounds, or if you prefer it, the cash instead."
I stared; I was not accustomed to see business transacted on quite
such lines as those.
"We'll take it," murmured Pugh; I believe he was too much overcome
by his feelings to do more than murmur. I interposed.
"My dear sir, you will excuse my saying that you arrive very
rapidly at your conclusions. In the first place, how can you make
sure that it is a diamond?"
The man behind the counter smiled.
"I should be very ill-fitted for the position which I hold if I
could not tell a diamond directly I get a sight of it, especially
such a stone as this."
"But have you no tests you can apply?"
"We have tests which we apply in cases in which doubt exists, but
in this case there is no doubt whatever. I am as sure that this is a
diamond as I am sure that it is air I breathe. However, here is a
There was a wheel close by the speaker. It was worked by a
treadle. It was more like a superior sort of traveling-tinker's
grindstone than anything else. The man behind the counter put his
foot upon the treadle. The wheel began to revolve. He brought the
crystal into contact with the swiftly revolving wheel. There was a
sssh! And, in an instant, his hand was empty; the crystal had
vanished into air.
"Good heavens!" he gasped. I never saw such a look of amazement on
a human countenance before. "It's splintered!"
It WAS a diamond, although it HAD splintered. In that fact lay the
point of the joke. The man behind the counter had not been wrong;
examination of such dust as could be collected proved that fact
beyond a doubt. It was declared by experts that the diamond, at some
period of its history, had been subjected to intense and continuing
heat. The result had been to make it as brittle as glass.
There could be no doubt that its original owner had been an expert
too. He knew where he got it from, and he probably knew what it had
endured. He was aware that, from a mercantile point of view, it was
worthless; it could never have been cut. So, having a turn for humor
of a peculiar kind, he had devoted days, and weeks, and possibly
months, to the construction of that puzzle. He had placed the diamond
inside, and he had enjoyed, in anticipation and in imagination, the
Alnaschar visions of the lucky finder.
Pugh blamed me for the catastrophe. He said, and still says, that
if I had not, in a measure, and quite gratuitously, insisted on a
test, the man behind the counter would have been satisfied with the
evidence of his organs of vision, and we should have been richer by
ten thousand pounds. But I satisfy my conscience with the reflection
that what I did at any rate was honest, though, at the same time, I am
perfectly well aware that such a reflection gives Pugh no sort of