The Gladstone Bag

The Gladstone Bag by Charlotte MacLeod

Book: The Gladstone Bag by Charlotte MacLeod Read Free Book Online
Authors: Charlotte MacLeod
jumble. The ferryboat snatcher must have taken them into the loo, she decided, and dumped them out to see what he’d got. When he’d found out he’d wasted his time, he’d stuffed them back any old way and ditched the bag where Radunov had found it. Or not, as the case might have been.
    There was no earthly reason to take them out again now, but Emma did. They were, after all, old acquaintances. This was going to be the Pirates’ fifth Iolanthe. No, their sixth, with all those others in between. Dear heaven, where had the years gone? She picked up the Fairy Queen’s crown, the one with the big diamond butterfly on top, and perched it on her head for auld lang syne while she untangled the rest of the gauds. So it was five times, not four, that she’d tyrannized over her fairy court and nursed her secret passion for Private Willis before she’d faced the truth and called a halt.
    “Leave ’em while you’re lookin’ good.” Mae West had said that. Emma and Bed had sneaked off to Boston by train on their very first all-alone date to catch Mae’s then-latest movie. They’d dined at the Copley Plaza on Bed’s father’s charge account, then gone on to the Tremont. Or was it the Majestic? She’d been too dazed with love and excitement to remember afterward, and she’d never thought in later years to ask.
    One dressed in those days. She’d worn her coming-out gown with pink roses instead of white and that bottle green velvet wrap Bed had always loved her in, Emma remembered that well enough. Bed had been in tux, looking handsome enough to turn heads and pretending not to notice, the darling ham. And the movie palace had been a gorgeous welter of rococo swirls and painted ceilings and crimson plush draperies and sky-high gold-framed mirrors and chandeliers totally beyond the scope of reason or logic.
    The last time her grandchildren had dragged her to a movie, they’d sat in a barren cube that might as well have been a lecture room in a teaching hospital, and the film had been about talking robots. Poor, glamour-starved children, little did they know how deprived they were. Emma took off the crown and looked in the satchel for the best place to stow it.
    Over the years, the old Gladstone bag had taken a good many knocks. Even the thin calf lining was bubbled and ripped in places. One of the rips was longer than Emma remembered; something had got caught down inside. She fished out the bauble and thought she was going to faint.
    Emma had enough diamonds of her own to know the true from the false. These were all too true. This was no mere necklace but what her mother would have called a dog collar: a band of diamonds fully an inch and a quarter wide, set in four solid rows, every single diamond as big as a baby pea. Dangling from it on diamond-studded platinum chains were three pear-shaped pendants, one with a blue diamond not more than half the size of the Hope, one with a yellow diamond of equal weight, and one great, dark blaze that could only be a rare black diamond, all of them framed in yet more diamonds—smaller ones these, of a paltry half-carat or so apiece.
    Emma tried to think what such jewels might be worth on today’s market and boggled. The women she knew didn’t buy diamonds, they inherited them or got them from their lawfully wedded husbands. She herself had her grandmother’s lovely sunburst, naturally, and her mother’s modest parure, besides the ring Bed had put on her finger that fateful night going home from the Lambda Chi hop and the stud earrings he’d given her when Young Bed was born. All these were useful pieces a woman in Emma Kelling’s position might reasonably have occasion to wear. Who on earth would dare to appear in a great lump of ostentation like this? A royal personage or a movie star, perhaps, surely not anyone from Pleasaunce.
    As to the owner of the necklace, that was for the police to find out. As to what it was doing in Bed’s uncle’s Gladstone bag, that was no great

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