iazIX3

iazIX3

“Corpo di Baccho!” said the landlord, and he also looked at me as though I were a thief. In the mean time the landlady and the three daughters had clustered round Mrs. Greene, administering to her all manner of Italian consolation. The box, and the money, and the jewels were after all a reality; and much incivility can be forgiven to a lady who has really lost her jewels, and has really found them again.

There and then there arose a hurly-burly among us as to the manner in which the odious trunk found its way into my room. Had anybody been just enough to consider the matter coolly, it must have been quite clear that I could not have ordered it there. When I entered the hotel, the boxes were already being lugged about, and I had spoken a word to no one concerning them. That traitorous Boots had done it,—no doubt without malice prepense; but he had done it; and now that the Greenes were once more known as moneyed people, he turned upon me, and told me to my face, that I had desired that box to be taken to my own room as part of my own luggage!

“My dear,” said Mr. Greene, turning to his wife, “you should never mention the contents of your luggage to any one.”

“I never will again,” said Mrs. Greene, with a mock repentant air, “but I really thought—”

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“One never can be sure of sharpers,” said Mr. Greene.

“That’s true,” said Mrs. Greene.

“After all, it may have been accidental,” said Sophonisba, on hearing which good-natured surmise both papa and mamma Greene shook their suspicious heads.

I was resolved to say nothing then. It was all but impossible that they should really think that I had intended to steal their box; nor, if they did think so, would it have become me to vindicate myself before the landlord and all his servants. I stood by therefore in silence, while two of the men raised the trunk, and joined the procession which followed it as it was carried out of my room into that of the legitimate owner. Everybody in the house was there by that time, and Mrs. Greene, enjoying the triumph, by no means grudged them the entrance into her sitting-room. She had felt that she was suspected, and now she was determined that the world of Bellaggio should know how much she was above suspicion. The box was put down upon two chairs, the supporters who had borne it retiring a pace each. Mrs. Greene then advanced proudly with the selected key, and Mr. Greene stood by at her right shoulder, ready to receive his portion of the hidden treasure. Sophonisba was now indifferent, and threw herself on the sofa, while I walked up and down the room thoughtfully,—meditating what words I should say when I took my last farewell of the Greenes. But as I walked I could see what occurred. Mrs. Greene opened the box, and displayed to view the ample folds of a huge yellow woollen dressing-down. I could fancy that she would not willingly have exhibited this article of her toilet, had she not felt that its existence would speedily be merged in the presence of the glories which were to follow. This had merely been the padding at the top of the box. Under that lay a long papier-maché case, and in that were all her treasures. “Ah, they are safe,” she said, opening the lid and looking upon her tawdry pearls and carbuncles.

Mr. Greene, in the mean time, well knowing the passage for his hand, had dived down to the very bottom of the box, and seized hold of a small canvas bag. “It is here,” said he, dragging it up, “and as far as I can tell, as yet, the knot has not been untied.” Whereupon he sat himself down by Sophonisba, and employing her to assist him in holding them, began to count his rolls. “They are all right,” said he; and he wiped the perspiration from his brow.

I had not yet made up my mind in what manner I might best utter my last words among them so as to maintain the dignity of my character, and now I was standing over against Mr. Greene with my arms folded on my breast. I had on my face a frown of displeasure, which I am able to assume upon occasions, but I had not yet determined what words I would use. After all, perhaps, it might be as well that I should leave them without any last words.

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“Greene, my dear,” said the lady, “pay the gentleman his ten napoleons.”

“Oh yes, certainly;” whereupon Mr. Greene undid one of the rolls and extracted eight sovereigns. “I believe that will make it right, sir,” said he, handing them to me.

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I took the gold, slipped it with an indifferent air into my waistcoat pocket, and then refolded my arms across my breast.

“Papa,” said Sophonisba, in a very audible whisper, “Mr. Robinson went for you to Como. Indeed, I believe he says he went to Milan.”

“Do not let that be mentioned,” said I.