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“One of the violins taken out of the room? oh, impossible,” she 먹튀사이트 incredulously echoed, with a coolness which must have stabbed Mr Cleffton like a sword of ice. “You will find it lying about somewhere when the dancing is over. Could you not play on one of the other violins, Mr Cleffton, and look for your own afterwards?”

Mr Cleffton looked at the honourable lady in pitying and profound contempt for her ignorance, and deep reproach for what to him seemed an indifference absolutely brutal. What! sit down and calmly play on another instrument while his own—to him the best in the world—might be speeding in the hands of the exultant robber to the other end of the world.

This was more than fiddler humanity could endure. High fees and even the countenance of earls were not to be despised, but they were as nothing compared with the loss of his darling instrument, and in a torrent of excited language, such as the lady was seldom favoured with hearing, the bereaved musician told her so. Not another note would he play till he got his own fiddle.

A horrible pause followed, but in the end a compromise was effected, by which all but Mr Cleffton continued to play, while he followed the butler from the room to prosecute his inquiries in the regions below.

A tardily stammered-out word from one of the servants had given them a slight clue to the strange disappearance. During the interval occupied by supper, some of the strange servants being entertained below—that is, the coachmen and footmen of those who had come a distance, and merely put up the horses to wait till the party was over—had proposed that they should take a peep at the glories of the empty ball-room, and, this being readily agreed to, they slipped quietly upstairs under the guidance of one of the servants, and gratified their curiosity.

“But they had been only a moment in the room,” the quaking servant added, “and hardly inside the door.”

The butler made no reply, but to Mr Cleffton he hopefully remarked—

“I suspect some of the coachmen will have your fiddle down in the kitchen,” and to the kitchen they went to find there more than one coachman, but no fiddle, or trace of one. Every one there seated swore that they had not as much as noticed the fiddle, and then they voluntarily underwent a process of searching. Greatcoats were produced and inspected, pockets turned out, and every means tried without success. Then some suggested that they should see if all in waiting were there; they counted off at once, and found that, by comparing the number with that of the plates set for supper in the servants’ hall, they were exactly one short. Who was the missing one! No one could tell, till one jolly-faced coachman said—

“Where’s the surly chap that sat next to me, and never took off his driving coat all the time?”

“Ay, where was he?” every one echoed, and soon to this was added the question, for the first time asked, “Who was he?”

There was no answer to either question. Nobody had noticed the man particularly, though to the jolly-faced coachman he had gruffly said that his name was “Smith, or Jones, or something,” and that he had been “driving some of the folks up stairs.”

Every one in this case, down to the servants of the house themselves, had imagined that every body else knew all about the strange man, and so had paid little attention to him and his odd manner.

Smith had done little but smoke and stare, though he had shown great alacrity in going up to see the ball-room; some, indeed, insisted that it had been he who proposed the treat. More, he had gone up with his heavy driving coat on, and some of the servants had a faint recollection of him loitering near the music stands while the rest of the servants walked round the room looking at the decorations.

“That’s the man that has stolen my violin,” cried Mr Cleffton at this stage of the inquiry. “He would have a big pocket inside his coat,—probably made for the occasion,—and has slipped my Cremona into it when no one was looking or thinking of him. Who does he serve with?”

“Who, indeed?” All echoed the question; but when guest after guest had been enumerated or appealed to by the butler, there came the still more surprising discovery that Smith served no one—came with no one—and was known to no one—had gained admittance, indeed, entirely by the dress he wore, his own cool audacity, and the general flurry in which every one was plunged by the party being held up stairs.

“Get out your horses, and let the villain be pursued,” cried Mr Cleffton, more and more distracted, “the whole robbery has been systematically planned and carried out; but the wretch can’t be far off, and we may overtake him yet. I will give ten pounds to any of you who help to put it into my hands again.”

The incentive was little needed, for a good deal of Cleffton’s excitement had communicated itself to those about him. In a few minutes several vehicles were horsed and ready in the stable yard behind, and on one of these Mr Cleffton took his place beside the driver and with a grand lashing of whips and excited whooping they were off down the avenue, at the foot of which they separated to take the different roads running from the spot. Mr Cleffton, from some idea of his own, had chosen that leading to Edinburgh; but, though the night was clear, and the moon and stars out in the sky, not a trace of the fugitive did they come upon between the mansion and the city. Several tramps they did overtake and rouse up and search without ceremony, but as none of these answered the description of the surly Mr Smith, they were allowed to resume their tramping or snoring, while the agonised fiddler entered the city. Of course his first visit was to the Central Police Office, where he made known his loss to the lieutenant on night duty, and then excitedly demanded to see a detective. It was explained to him that detectives require sleep as well as ordinary mortals, and are not usually kept at the office during the night waiting for such exceptional cases, but this produced little impression upon the musician.

“Everything depends on this matter being seen to with promptitude,” he said. “Give me the man’s address, and I’ll go to him myself.”

They ought to have given him McSweeny?’s address, considering the hour and the work I had done the day before, but they didn’t; they gave him mine; and out to Charles Street he came at half-past four in the morning, and roused me out of bed, sleepy, stupid, and dazed with having got only three hours rest instead of eight, and, without waiting to see if I understood him, at once began to bemoan his loss.

“My lovely Cremona! my beautiful Strad! spirited away—stolen from under my very eyes! Good heavens, what am I to do? What is to become of me if you don’t trace out the thief?”

“Strad! Strad! Who is she?” I vacantly asked, thinking from the man’s tears that he must mean some young and beautiful maiden, violently abducted from her home and friends.

“The best fiddle in the world—at least, the best that I ever tried, and I’ve tried a few,” he moaned, wringing his hands. “I’d rather have had a leg broken, or lost my head, than that Cremona.”

I stared at him, only half understanding the speech, and inclined to think that he had lost his head.
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