Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 33

“The Goodwood Cup, my lord — the Doncaster. This pair of flagons for his highness the Khedive — something quite new — yes, parcel-gilt, the only style now — it gives relief to design — yes, by Monti, a great man, hardly inferior to Flaxman, if at all. Flaxman worked for. Rundell and Bridge in the old days — one of the principal causes of their success. Your lordship’s gold service was supplied by Rundell and Bridge. Very fine service indeed, much by Flaxman — nothing of that kind seen now.”

“I never did see it,” said Lothair. He was replying to Mr. Ruby, a celebrated jeweller and goldsmith, in a celebrated street, who had saluted him when he had entered the shop, and called the attention of Lothair to a group of treasures of art.

“Strange,” said Mr. Ruby smiling. “It is in the next room, if your lordship would like to see it. I think your lordship should see your gold service. Mr. Putney Giles ordered it here to be examined and put in order.”

“I should like to see it very much,” said Lothair, “though I came to speak to you about something else.”

And so Lothair, following Mr. Ruby into an inner apartment, had the gratification, for the first time, of seeing his own service of gold plate laid out in completeness, and which had been for some time exhibited to the daily admiration of that favored portion of the English people who frequent the brilliant and glowing counters of Mr. Ruby.

Not that Lothair was embarrassed by their presence at this moment. The hour of their arrival had not yet come. Business had not long commenced when Lothair entered the shop, somewhat to the surprise of its master. Those who know Bond Street only in the blaze of fashionable hours can form but an imperfect conception of its matutinal charm when it is still shady and fresh — when there are no carriages, rarely a cart, and passers-by gliding about on real business. One feels as in some Continental city. Then there are time and opportunity to look at the shops; and there is no street in the world that can furnish such a collection, filled with so many objects of beauty, curiosity, and interest. The jewellers and goldsmiths and dealers in rare furniture, porcelain, and cabinets, and French pictures, have long fixed upon Bond Street as their favorite quarter, and are not chary of displaying their treasures; though it may be a question whether some of the magazines of fancy food — delicacies culled from all the climes and regions of the globe — particularly at the matin hour, may not, in their picturesque variety, be the most attractive. The palm, perhaps, would be given to the fish-mongers, with their exuberant exhibitions, grouped with skill, startling often with strange forms, dazzling with prismatic tints, and breathing the invigorating redolence of the sea.

“Well, I like the service,” said Lothair, “and am glad, as you tell me, that its fashion has come round again, because there will now be no necessity for ordering a new one. I do not myself much care for plate. I like flowers and porcelain on a table, and I like to see the guests. However, I suppose it is all right, and I must use it. It was not about plate that I called; I wanted to speak to you about pearls.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Ruby, and his face brightened; and, ushering Lothair to some glass cases, he at the same time provided his customer with a seat.

“Something like that?” said Mr. Ruby, who by this time had slid into his proper side of the counter, and was unlocking the glass cases; “something like that?” and he placed before Lothair a string of pretty pearls with a diamond clasp. “With the earrings, twenty-five hundred,” he added; and then, observing that Lothair did not seem enchanted, he said, “This is something quite new,” and he carelessly pushed toward Lothair a magnificent necklace of turquoises and brilliants.

It was impossible not to admire it — the arrangement was so novel and yet of such good taste; but, though its price was double that of the pearl necklace, Mr. Ruby did not seem to wish to force attention to it, for he put in Lothair’s hands almost immediately the finest emerald necklace in the world, and set in a style that was perfectly ravishing.

“The setting is from the Campana collection,” said Mr. Ruby. “They certainly understood things in those days, but I can say that, so far as mere workmanship is concerned, this quite equals them. I have made one for the empress. Here is a black pearl, very rare, pear-shape, and set in Golconda diamonds — two thousand guineas — it might be suspended to a necklace, or worn as a locket. This is pretty,” and he offered to Lothair a gigantic sapphire in brilliants and in the form of a bracelet.

“The finest sapphire I know is in this ring,” added Mr. Ruby, and he introduced his visitor to a tray of precious rings. “I have a pearl bracelet here that your lordship might like to see,” and he placed before Lothair a case of fifty bracelets, vying with each other in splendor.

“But what I want,” said Lothair, “are pearls.”

“I understand,” said Mr. Ruby. “This is a curious thing,” and he took out a paper packet. “There!” he said, opening it and throwing it before Lothair so carelessly that some of the stones ran over the glass covering of the counter. “There, that is a thing, not to be seen every day — packet of diamonds, bought of an Indian prince, and sent by us to be cut and polished at Amsterdam — nothing can be done in that way except there — and just returned — nothing very remarkable as to size, but all of high quality — some fine stones — that for example,” and he touched one with the long nail of his little finger; “that is worth seven hundred guineas, the whole packet worth perhaps ten thousand pounds.”

“Very interesting,” said Lothair, “but what I want are pearls. That necklace which you have shown me is like the necklace of a doll. I want pearls, such as you see them in Italian pictures — Titians and Giorgiones — such as a Queen of Cyprus would wear. I want ropes of pearls.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Ruby, “I know what your lordship means. Lady Bideford had something of that kind. She very much deceived us — always told us her necklace must be sold at her death, and she had very bad health. We waited, but when she went, poor lady, it was claimed by the heir, and is in chancery at this very moment. The Justinianis have ropes of pearls — Madame Justiniani of Paris, I have been told, gives a rope to every one of her children when they marry — but there is no expectation of a Justiniani parting with any thing. Pearls are troublesome property, my lord. They require great care; they want both air and exercise; they must be worn frequently; you cannot lock them up. The Duchess of Havant has the finest pearls in this country, and I told her grace, ‘Wear them whenever you can; wear them at breakfast,’ and her grace follows my advice — she does wear them at breakfast. I go down to Havant Castle every year to see her grace’s pearls, and I wipe every one of them myself, and let them lie on a sunny bank in the garden, in a westerly wind, for hours and days together. Their complexion would have been ruined had it not been for this treatment. Pearls are like girls, my lord — they require quite as much attention.”

“Then you cannot give me what I want?” said Lothair.

“Well, I can, and I cannot,” said Mr. Ruby. “I am in a difficulty. I have in this house exactly what your lordship requires, but I have offered them to Lord Topaz, and I have not received his answer. We have instructions to inform his lordship of every very precious jewel that we obtain, and give him the preference as a purchaser. Nevertheless, there is no one I could more desire to oblige than your lordship — your lordship has every claim upon us, and I should be truly glad to find these pearls in your lordship’s possession if I could only see my way. Perhaps your lordship would like to look at them?”

“Certainly, but pray do not leave me here alone with all these treasures,” said Lothair, as Mr. Ruby was quitting the apartment.

“Oh! my lord, with you!”

“Yes, that is all very well; but, if any thing is missed hereafter, it will always be remembered that these jewels were in my possession, and I was alone. I highly object to it.” But Mr. Ruby had vanished, and did not immediately reappear. In the mean time it was impossible for Lothair to move: he was alone, and surrounded with precious necklaces, and glittering rings, and gorgeous bracelets, with loose diamonds running over the counter. It was not a kind or an amount of property that Lothair, relinquishing the trust, could satisfactorily deliver to a shopman. The shopman, however honest, might be suddenly tempted by Satan, and take the next train to Liverpool. He felt therefore relieved when Mr. Ruby reentered the room, breathless, with a velvet casket. “I beg pardon, my lord, a thousand pardons, but I thought I would just run over to Lord Topaz, only in the square close by. His lordship is at Madrid, the only city one cannot depend on communications with by telegraph. Spaniards strange people, very prejudiced, take all sorts of fancies in their head. Besides, Lord Topaz has more pearls than he can know what to do with, and I should like your lordship to see these,” and he opened the casket.

“Exactly what I want,” exclaimed Lothair; “these must be the very pearls the Queen of Cyprus wore. What is their price?”

“They are from Genoa, and belonged to a doge,” said Mr. Ruby; “your lordship shall have them for the sum we gave for them. There shall be no profit on the transaction, and we shall be proud of it. We gave for them four thousand guineas.”

“I will take them with me,” said Lothair, who was afraid, if lie left them behind, Lord Topaz might arrive in the interval.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19