“I prefer that you learn them from such inquiries as you will make above,” said he. “My wife will tell you what she knows about it, and there is a servant or two who may have something to say. I would speak to no one else,” he added, with a deepening of the furrow in his brow; “at least not at present. Only,”—and here his manner became markedly impressive,—“understand this. Those diamonds must be found in forty-eight hours, no matter who suffers, or what consequences follow a firm and determined pursuit of them. I will stop at nothing to have them back in the time mentioned, and I do not expect you to. If they are here by Thursday night—” and the hand he held out with its fingers curved and grasping actually trembled with his vehemence—“I will give you five hundred dollars Friday afternoon. If they are here without noise, scandal, or—” his voice sank further—“disquietude to my wife, I will increase the sum to a thousand. Isn’t that handsome?” he queried, with an attempt at a lighter tone, which was not altogether successful.
“Very,” was my short but deferential reply. And, interested enough by this time, I turned towards the door, when he stopped me.
“One moment,” said he. “I have endeavored not to forestall your judgment by any surmises or conclusions of my own. But, after you have investigated the matter and come to some sort of theory in regard to it, I should like to hear what you have to say.”
“I will be happy to consult with you,” was my reply; and, seeing that he had no further remarks to offer, I prepared to accompany him up-stairs.
The house was a superb one, and not the least handsome portion of it was the staircase. As we went up, the eye rested everywhere on the richest artistic effects of carved wood-work and tapestry hangings. Nor was the glitter of brass lacking, nor the sensuous glow which is cast by the light striking through ruby-colored glass. At the top was a square hall fitted up with divans and heavily bespread with rugs. At one end a half-drawn portière disclosed a suite of apartments furnished with a splendor equal to that which marked the rest of the house, while at the other was a closed door, towards which Mr. Winchester advanced.