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The Mystery Of Joseph Laquedem
by [?]

I was fingering the card when the door opened again and admitted a young man in a caped overcoat and tall boots bemired high above the ankles. He halted on the threshold and bowed.


“Joseph Laquedem,” said he in a pleasant voice.

“I guess your errand,” said I, “though it was a Mr. Isaac Laquedem whom I expected.–Your father, perhaps?”

He bowed again, and I left the room to fetch my bag of guineas. “You have had a dirty ride,” I began on my return.

“I have walked,” he answered, lifting a muddy boot. “I beg you to pardon these.”

“What, from Torpoint Ferry? And in this weather? My faith, sir, you must be a famous pedestrian!”

He made no reply to this, but bent over the guineas, fingering them, holding them up to the candlelight, testing their edges with his thumbnail, and finally poising them one by one on the tip of his forefinger.

“I have a pair of scales,” suggested I.

“Thank you, I too have a pair in my pocket. But I do not need them. The guineas are good weight, all but this one, which is possibly a couple of grains short.”

“Surely you cannot rely on your hand to tell you that?”

His eyebrows went up as he felt in his pocket and produced a small velvet-lined case containing a pair of scales. He was a decidedly handsome young man, with dark intelligent eyes and a slightly scornful– or shall I say ironical?–smile. I took particular note of the steadiness of his hand as he adjusted the scales and weighed my guinea.

“To be precise,” he announced, “1.898, or practically one and nine-tenths short.”

“I should have thought,” said I, fairly astounded, “a lifetime too little for acquiring such delicacy of sense!”

He seemed to ponder. “I dare say you are right, sir,” he answered, and was silent again until the business of payment was concluded. While folding the receipt he added, “I am a connoisseur of coins, sir, and not of their weight alone.”

“Antique, as well as modern?”


“In that case,” said I, “you may be able to tell me something about this”: and going to my bureau I took out the brass plaque which Mr. Pollard had detached from the planks of the church wall. “To be sure, it scarcely comes within the province of numismatics.”

He took the plaque. His brows contracted, and presently he laid it on the table, drew my chair towards him in an absent-minded fashion, and, sitting down, rested his brow on his open palms. I can recall the attitude plainly, and his bent head, and the rain still glistening in the waves of his black hair.

“Where did you find this?” he asked, but without looking up.

I told him. “The engraving upon it is singular. I thought that possibly–“

“Oh, that,” said he, “is simplicity itself. An eagle displayed, with two heads, the legs resting on two gates, a crescent between, an imperial crown surmounting–these are the arms of the Greek Empire, the two gates are Rome and Constantinople. The question is, how it came where you found it? It was covered with plaster, you say, and the plaster whitewashed? Did you discover anything near it?”

Upon this I told him of the frescoes and charcoal drawings, and roughly described them.

His fingers began to drum upon the table.

“Have you any documents which might tell us when the wall was first plastered?”

“The parish accounts go back to 1594–here they are: the Registers to 1663 only. I keep them in the vestry. I can find no mention of plastering, but the entries of expenditure on whitewashing occur periodically, the first under the year 1633.” I turned the old pages and pointed to the entry “Ite paide to George mason for a dayes work about the churche after the Jew had been, and white wassche is vjd.”