The Suicide Club and Other Stories HTML version
The Rajah's Diamond
Story Of The Bandbox
UP to the age of sixteen, at a private school and afterwards at one of those great
institutions for which England is justly famous, Mr. Harry Hartley had received the
ordinary education of a gentleman. At that period, he manifested a remarkable distaste for
study; and his only surviving parent being both weak and ignorant, he was permitted
thenceforward to spend his time in the attainment of petty and purely elegant
accomplishments. Two years later, he was left an orphan and almost a beggar. For all
active and industrious pursuits, Harry was unfitted alike by nature and training. He could
sing romantic ditties, and accompany himself with discretion on the piano; he was a
graceful although a timid cavalier; he had a pronounced taste for chess; and nature had
sent him into the world with one of the most engaging exteriors that can well be fancied.
Blond and pink, with dove's eyes and a gentle smile, he had an air of agreeable
tenderness and melancholy, and the most submissive and caressing manners. But when
all is said, he was not the man to lead armaments of war, or direct the councils of a State.
A fortunate chance and some influence obtained for Harry, at the time of his
bereavement, the position of private secretary to Major-General Sir Thomas Vandeleur,
C.B. Sir Thomas was a man of sixty, loud-spoken, boisterous, and domineering. For
some reason, some service the nature of which had been often whispered and repeatedly
denied, the Rajah of Kashgar had presented this officer with the sixth known diamond of
the world. The gift transformed General Vandeleur from a poor into a wealthy man, from
an obscure and unpopular soldier into one of the lions of London society; the possessor of
the Rajah's Diamond was welcome in the most exclusive circles; and he had found a lady,
young, beautiful, and well-born, who was willing to call the diamond hers even at the
price of marriage with Sir Thomas Vandeleur. It was commonly said at the time that, as
like draws to like, one jewel had attracted another; certainly Lady Vandeleur was not
only a gem of the finest water in her own person, but she showed herself to the world in a
very costly setting; and she was considered by many respectable authorities, as one
among the three or four best dressed women in England.
Harry's duty as secretary was not particularly onerous; but he had a dislike for all
prolonged work; it gave him pain to ink his lingers; and the charms of Lady Vandeleur
and her toilettes drew him often from the library to the boudoir. He had the prettiest ways
among women, could talk fashions with enjoyment, and was never more happy than
when criticising a shade of ribbon, or running on an errand to the milliner's. In short, Sir
Thomas's correspondence fell into pitiful arrears, and my Lady had another lady's maid.
At last the General, who was one of the least patient of military commanders, arose from
his place in a violent access of passion, and indicated to his secretary that he had no
further need for his services, with one of those explanatory gestures which are most
rarely employed between gentlemen. The door being unfortunately open, Mr. Hartley fell
downstairs head foremost.