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The Collector
by [?]

Stay! What was that behind the youngest dog?

“May I look at that old bracelet?” he asked, his voice trembling a little; and without waiting for permission he walked over and took up the circle of tarnished metal in his hands. As he examined it his colour came and went, his heart seemed to stop beating. With a tremendous effort he composed himself and returned to his chair.

It was the Emperor’s Bracelet!

Of course you know the history of this most famous of all bracelets. Made by Spurius Quintus of Rome in 47 B.C., it was given by Caesar to Cleopatra, who tried without success to dissolve it in vinegar. Returning to Rome by way of Antony, it was worn at a minor conflagration by Nero, after which it was lost sight of for many centuries. It was eventually heard of during the reign of Canute (or Knut, as his admirers called him); and John is known to have lost it in the Wash, whence it was recovered a century afterwards. It must have travelled thence to France, for it was seen once in the possession of Louis XI; and from there to Spain, for Philip the Handsome presented it to Joanna on her wedding day. Columbus took it to America, but fortunately brought it back again; Peter the Great threw it at an indifferent musician; on one of its later visits to England Pope wrote a couplet to it. And the most astonishing thing in its whole history was that now for more than a hundred years it had vanished completely. To turn up again in a little Devonshire cottage! Verily, truth is stranger than fiction.

“That’s rather a curious bracelet of yours,” said Adrian casually. “My–er–wife has one just like it, which she asked me to match. Is it an old friend, or would you care to sell it?”

“My mother gave it me,” said the old woman, “and she had it from hers. I don’t know no further than that. I didn’t mean to sell it, but—-“

“Quite right,” said Adrian, “and, after all, I can easily get another.”

“But I won’t say a bit of money wouldn’t be useful. What would you think a fair price, sir? Five shillings?”

Adrian’s heart jumped. To get the Emperor’s bracelet for five shillings!

But the spirit of the collector rose up strong within him. He laughed kindly.

“My good woman,” he said, “they turn out bracelets like that in Birmingham at two shillings apiece. And quite new. I’ll give you tenpence.”

“Make it one-and-sixpence,” she pleaded. “Times are hard.”

Adrian reflected. He was not, strictly speaking, impoverished. He could afford one-and-sixpence.

“One-and-tuppence,” he said.

“No, no, one-and-sixpence,” she repeated obstinately.

Adrian reflected again. After all, he could always sell it for ten thousand pounds, if the worst came to the worst.

“Well, well,” he sighed. “One-and-sixpence let it be.”

He counted out the money carefully. Then, putting the precious bracelet in his pocket, he rose to go.

. . . . .

Adrian has no relations living now. When he dies he proposes to leave the Plimsoll Collection to the nation, having–as far as he can foresee–no particular use for it in the next world. This is really very generous of him, and no doubt, when the time comes, the papers will say so. But it is a pity that he cannot be appreciated properly in his lifetime. Personally I should like to see him knighted.