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Tales of Chinatown

Tcheriapin
I
THE ROSE
"Examine it closely," said the man in the unusual caped overcoat. "It will repay
examination."
I held the little object in the palm of my hand, bending forward over the marble-
topped table and looking down at it with deep curiosity. The babel of tongues so
characteristic of Malay Jack's, and that mingled odour of stale spirits, greasy
humanity, tobacco, cheap perfume, and opium, which distinguish the
establishment faded from my ken. A sense of loneliness came to me.
Perhaps I should say that it became complete. I had grown conscious of its
approach at the very moment that the cadaverous white-haired man had
addressed me. There was a quality in his steadfast gaze and in his oddly pitched
deep voice which from the first had wrapped me about--as though he were
cloaking me in his queer personality and withdrawing me from the common
plane.
Having stared for some moments at the object in my palm, I touched it gingerly;
whereupon my acquaintance laughed--a short bass laugh.
"It looks fragile," he said. "But have no fear. It is nearly as hard as a diamond."
Thus encouraged, I took the thing up between finger and thumb, and held it
before my eyes. For long enough I looked at it, and looking, my wonder grew. I
thought that here was the most wonderful example of the lapidary's art which I
had ever met with, east or west.
 
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