The Lipperley Necklace: 1870s

So many of Peter Lely’s languid-eyed ladies wear strings of luminous pearls. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lely#/media/File:Frances_Teresa_Stuart_by_Lely.jpg

THE LOST NECKLACE.

We all have our ambitions. That of Andrew Andrews, the great dealer in jewellery and bric-a-brac, was to be acknowledged the finest judge of precious stones and antique work to be found in the trade. He worked early and late to obtain this reputation, and by dint of perseverance and a few clever hits, much expenditure of money and not a trifle of burnt fingers during his apprenticeship, he succeeded in his desire. His knowledge was allowed on all hands to be supreme, his taste impeccable, his flair undeviating. No stone of value, no piece of goldsmith’s work, no specimen of cinquecento art, was quite sure of its repute until it had been passed through the alembic of his judgment; and what he had once stamped with his approval, and consented to sell with his name attached, was sent out into the world with a certificate of merit that was worth a small fortune to its possessor.

With this ambition of being known for accurate connoisseurship, was naturally that other of getting hold of all the most famous stones and pieces of bric-a-brac that he could induce the present owners to throw into his hands. If he knew of any precious bits belonging to a decayed family of former notables, needing money more than heirlooms, or to a young scapegrace who cared more for a month’s spree than for all the rare gems, and cabinets, and pictures, and pottery mouldering down at the dull old home, Andrew Andrews went round and round that quarry like a dog scenting a cache, and never rested until he had got the thing he wanted, for he gave good prices when it suited his purpose. He knew how to bribe so as to create the desire to sell; and he even sometimes bought at a loss that he might keep up his character as the indefatigable collector of unique valuables, in whose private parlour at the back of the shop you would find things not to be had anywhere else in the world. All the same, he ground down the poor devils who sold for need, till he took pretty well al the gilt off their gingerbread, and made the transaction for them rather a loss than a gain. As, however, nothing succeeds so much as success, he got his own way nine times out of ten; and Andrew Andrews was known far and wide as the man to whom to go if you wanted to buy a good thing irrespective of cost, or to get rid of one on favourable terms, if your needs were not pressing, and you were dexterous in the art of angling.

Now there was one thing which Andrew Andrews wished above all in the world to get hold of. This was the famous pearl necklace which had belonged to the beautiful Lady Lipperley, of doubtful fame—that Lady Lipperley who had been one of the beauties of Charles the Second’s court; whose portrait Sir Peter Lely had painted as “Venus rising from the sea,” and whose main article of attire in that portrait was this famous pearl necklace which Andrew Andrews coveted as if it had been the elixir of life itself. As pearls and as a necklace this jewel was unique_ The centre drop alone was worth a King’s ransom; the pearls were well-nigh priceless; and the fame of possessing this splendid and unapproachable treasure was of more value in the eyes of Andrew Andrews than half his fortune. This pearl necklace haunted him. Night and day he thought of it, and devised schemes as to, first, its discovery and then its possession. He was willing to pay royally for this royal treasure if only he could secure it; and, as it was, he spent no small sums in trying to find out where it was. For there was something of a tradition as to the strange way in which it had disappeared from view ; and, though known to exist—for the pearls had never come into the market—it was not known where. Hence Andrew Andrews was in his right, as well as following the custom of the trade, when he employed agents and spies, to whom he offered a generous com‘mission, should they bring him within measurable distance of Lady Lipperley’s world-famed necklace.

One day a stranger came into the office where Andrew Andrews transacted his business, examined his books, and offered his wares. He was looking now over his correspondence with young Vaurien, who had a few good things left in his ancestral home, for which the connoisseur was in treaty, when a tall, well-conditioned, handsome-looking man, with a military air and a good address, walked straight through the front shop, disregarding the shopman’s inquiries as to what he wanted, and came full upon Andrew Andrews in his sanctum sanctorum.

“Good morning, Mr. Andrews,” he said, speaking with an easy, off-hand air, like a man accustomed to the world and not afraid of his company. He spoke, too, with a slight foreign accent, like an Englishman who had been many years abroad, and who has thus, by long contact, acquired a certain genre, as things which have lain near coffee, or musk, or tobacco, become impregnated with the foreign odour of their neighbour.

“Good morning, sir,” said Mr. Andrews, with a sharp glance that took in the whole personality of the visitor, from the well-brushed hair, just beginning to thin on the temples, to the well-cut coat fitting like a second skin on the handsome back, and the perfect boots in which a couple of small and nicely-shaped feet were encased.

“You deal in gems, cinque-cento work, jewellery, majolica—bric-a-brac, in a word! ” said the stranger, whose dark eyes were roving round the place like an owl out a-mousing, or a hawk hovering above a dovecote.

Mr. Andrew Andrews bowed in assent.

“Your name is well known all over the world,” continued the stranger, in his careless, off-hand way. “At all the art sales in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, you are a greater authority than the greatest man of the place, and what Mr. Andrew Andrews, of London, approves of has a cachet of its own, and one that goes beyond its own merits.”

As he spoke, he took off his glove and carelessly stroked his moustache. On his hand glittered and played in the changing light an incomparable cat’s-eye. Never since he entered the business had Andrew Andrews seen such a magnificent specimen of this strange stone. He looked at it with the connoisseur’s admiration, the collector’s fascination; but the stranger did not notice that rapt regard. He was thinking only of his moustache, which he had evidently the trick of stroking as some men play with their watch-chains, and others twirl their sticks, with two fingers as a pivot.

“You have a fine cat’s-eye there,” said Andrews abruptly.

The stranger laughed in a half-pleased, half-deprecatory way.

“Yes, it’s well enough,” he said; “but I have finer things than this. Here is a gem, for instance, that has not its fellow in the world,” he added, taking off his other glove, and showing the most exquisite engraved emerald; “one of the finest and purest of the finest and purest periods of antique gem engraving.”

“You are rich,” said Andrews, with a covetous glance.

“Think so? What do you say, then, to this?” laughed the stranger, taking from his breast pocket a small box, wrapped in many envelopes. When he came finally to the contents, he showed the connoisseur a pear-shaped pearl of the most perfect shape and colour.

Andrews held out his hand for the jewel, but the stranger kept it back with the instinctive action of a man who has gone about the world, and rubbed shoulders with his kind so long as to have dropped by the way all false modesty as well as trust, sensitiveness, and inconvenient belief in human honesty. He only showed it, lying in the box which he held tightly in his own hand; and he did not allow Andrew Andrews to touch it or examine it closely.

“That is worth something, if you like,” he said, as he re-enfolded the box in its multifarious wrappings, then put it back in his breast pocket, rather ostentatiously buttoning up his coat as he did so.

“It is fairly fine,” said Andrews, cautiously.

It was not his way to be enthusiastic over the property of others which he might have to buy. He turned the mirror round only when he had to sell.

“Fairly fine!” echoed the stranger with marked contempt. “I believe it is ‘fairly fine’ with a vengeance! I should have thought a man of your judgment and experience would have pronounced a more fitting verdict than this, Mr. Andrews. I like that! Fairly fine! Well, I suppose it is, and something more the back of that.”

“You did not give me time to examine it, sir,” said Andrews, a little sulkily.

“Time enough for an expert like yourself to have seen its merits,” answered the stranger, hastily, and somewhat haughtily. “The drop of the necklace which belonged to Lady Lipperley—which Sir Peter Lely painted in his famous picture of “Venus rising from the sea”—which all the world knows of—which has been engraved and described scores of times—surely it does not need a very close examination to decide on the merits of such an incomparable jewel as that! However, I did not come here to discuss my pearl; I came to ask if you have still in your possession that famous Limoges snuff-box which belonged to Richelieu, and from him passed down by various stages to Madame Récamier, and then to young Vaurien, who sold it two years ago at the Hotel Drouot, where you bought it? Is it still in your possession?”

“The drop of the Lipperley necklace!” murmured Andrew Andrews. He was too much astounded, absorbed, overcome, to listen to the rest. The pearl necklace which he had set his heart on having ; and here was the drop—the famous drop—within reach of his hand!

“Well, Mr. Andrews,” said the stranger, sharply; “have you that snuff-box?”

“The snuff-box! What snuff-box?” asked Andrews, recalled to himself, like a sleeper suddenly awakened.

The stranger looked at him with frank surprise.

“Why, Mr. Andrews, what has come over you?” he said, with a light laugh. “One would think you had been struck by some demon. We should say so in my country. What has happened to you! What is it?”

“Nothing,” said Andrews, trying to laugh as lightly as his visitor, but making a sorry kind of business of it. “I was only a little surprised when you told me that that pearl was the drop belonging to the famous necklace of Lady Lipperley. It is a thing I have wanted all my life to see, but I have never been able to trace it. I did not know who had it.”

“No? then you could not have gone very far,” laughed the stranger.” “It has been in the possession of our family for generations.”

“Of what family?” asked Andrew Andrews, anxiously.

“The Von Rascalliz of Pesth,” said the stranger.

“But how the deuce did it travel there?” said Andrews.

“Oh, the itinerary is easy to trace,” said the stranger. “A Rascalliz was Ambassador at the Court of Anne-— don’t you remember?—when most of the Beauties of the Merry Monarch had gone to the shades below, and their fortunes were in some instances of no more value than their good looks. Lady Lipperley’s exchequer was one of those which had run dry. She sold the famous pearl necklace to my ancestor, Maximilian von Rascalliz, and we have preserved the precious heirloom from that day to this. I have the original deed of transfer written in the Latin of that period. Queer stuff that Latin!” he said, laughing again. “I question if Cicero would have fathered it.”

“Have you the necklace here in London?” asked Andrews.

“Surely!” answered Von Rascalliz; “I never travel without it. Besides, to tell you the truth, I thought of offering it to your Queen. It seems a pity that such a splendid jewel should belong to an old bachelor like myself. It ought to adorn a Court!”

“Could I see it before you offer it?” said Andrews, trembling like an aspen leaf.

“Well — yes — under restrictions,” answered Von Rascalliz, looking at the collector as a policeman looks at a probable burglar. “You can see it, certainly, Mr. Andrews; but you understand, don’t you, that the thing is rather too valuable to be handed about to Tom, Dick, and Harry indiscriminately? If you see it, it must be at my hotel and under my conditions.”

“Certainly, certainly, sir,” said Andrews, wiping the perspiration from his upper lip; “at all events, let me see it before you offer it to her Majesty.”

He was impolitic in his eagerness. He felt that he was; but this was one of those occasions which come only once in the life of a man, and he might be excused if he showed too plainly how much the matter interested him.

“But the snuff-box?” said Von Rascalliz, who took the whole affair with consummate coolness.

“No, I have not got it; I sold it last week.”

On which the polite Hungarian gave vent to something in an unknown tongue which, if it were not swearing, was a very good imitation.

The next day Andrews went to the hotel indicated, where he found Von Rascalliz, the pearls, the deed of transfer, and a gentlemanlike-looking man, who was called by the host mon cher, and who said, incidentally, that he, too, having heard of the famous necklace, had come to open negotiations for it on behalf of the fabulously-wealthy Mrs.___, who made it her boast to carry the revenue of a nation on her shoulders. Indeed, things had gone very far when Andrews came in, and it was only by dint of a handsome personal commission to mon cher that he was able to stop the sale of the pearls there and then. He did stop it, however, and took a day and a night to reflect on the possibility of his own purchase. Von Rascalliz promised to wait his decision before either offering the necklace to the Queen, or concluding with Mrs. ___ ’s agent. But he must make that decision quickly. Time pressed, and that estate in Hungary wanted the owner’s supervision.

The ball rolled according to the collector’s will. He had longed for this moment with a passion known only to those who have dreamed for years of a quasi-impossibility. When their dream is suddenly fulfilled, they lose their heads. And Andrews lost his. He bought the pearl necklace at a tremendous sacrifice; but he had attained his desire, and the world envied while it applauded him. He spent a few thousands in advertising his treasure, which he set at a figure that would handsomely recoup his outlay; and all London flocked to see the historic necklace that Andrew Andrews, the great bric-a-brac and art collector, had bought at a price which made cautious men wink.

Among the rest came a little snuffy, shuffling old fellow, who had more knowledge of art and stones and gems in his little finger than Andrews had in his whole head. He was a queer, Bohemian, gin-drinking old chap; but if he were sober he knew a good thing when he saw it, and spotted a forgery as unerringly as a retriever brings in a bird. He looked through the gilt bars of the glass case where the famous necklace was lying; and as he looked he might be seen laughing greatly to himself.

“Splendidly done!” he said, half aloud. “A real work of genius! Ought to succeed; and don’t wonder it fetched that ass, Andrews! Best thing of the kind I have ever seen; and if Andrews were not such a bumptious fool, I would leave him to find it out by himself. But he wants a lesson, and by the Lord Harry, he shall have it! ”

The next day the little snuffy old man called on Andrews with a bundle of discoloured old plates and torn sheets of letterpress under his arm.

“Andrews,” he said, bluntly, “you have been taken in this time. That necklace is no more the Lipperley necklace than it is the Koh-i-noor, It is a forgery, sir; wonderfully well done—but only a forgery after all.”

“You are drunk, Snooks!” said Andrews, contemptuously.

He was a coarse kind of man to his social inferiors, though an oily-tongued fellow enough to his superiors.

“Sober as a judge, Mr. Andrews, and a better judge both of pearls and their forgeries than you are,” retorted the old fellow. “Here, see what these old descriptions say; look at these cuts. “Where the deuce were your eyes when you bought this for a genuine pearl?” he added, pointing disdainfully to one of the beads, which had a small, microscopic, manufactured flaw. “Test that bead, and my life on it you will find it false. And so they all are. You have been done, sir, done; and your famous Lipperley necklace is worth only the price of a good bit of Palais Royal jewellery.”

It was in vain that Andrews swore and raved, abused Snooks like a pickpocket, and vowed he would have the life of that infamous Von Rascalliz. Facts are facts, and historic pearls can be proved as well as titles, and deeds of transfer in dog Latin can be forged as well as banknotes and old poems. And the fact here was, as Snooks had said, that Andrews had been taken in and done for with masterly success by one of the cleverest workmen of the great Palais Royal house of ___. There was no help for it. The thing was undeniable, and the ruin of his far-famed reputation stared him in the face. And this was a thing he could never survive.

He took his decision heroically. Better lose his money than his character for accuracy of judgment—better lie to the world like a man than be smothered in ridicule. What Snooks had discovered others might discover, and when the thing got wind, where then would be his pride of place as the great art collector, his purity of repute as the unfailing judge and critic?

That night the necklace was missing from its case, and the case itself was found broken to pieces in the shop. In the morning, when they came to open the place, the assistants saw the floor strewed with broken glass, the gilt bars bent and broken, and that the pearls had disappeared. Nothing else had been abstracted—only the famous Lipperley necklace, for which Andrews had paid so royally, and which he expected to sell so handsomely. There was a hue and cry, of course; the police were called in, and all the servants were subjected to the most rigorous cross-examination, which resulted in nothing; and then Andrew Andrews advertised his loss extensively, and offered a gigantic reward to whosoever should bring the necklace to his place. But neither advertisement nor offered reward produced any good effect. The missing pearls never turned up, and to this hour the mystery of their disappearance is unsolved. Only Snooks suspects, and Andrews knows, what became of that famous Lipperley necklace, each pearl of which would have made an era in the life of any jeweller to whom it might have been offered. But if hammers could speak, that hammer in Andrews’ private sanctum could tell its own tale; and that well fed, handsome, polyglot Greek swindler, feasting his accomplices at Bignon’s, would have continued the disclosures made by that general smash.

Truth, Vol. 11, 22 June 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  How many literary allusions this story of bejewelled hubris suggests!  “Pearls goeth before a fall.” “Pearls before swine.” The Biblical “pearl of great price” and the man who sold all he had to possess it. And, of course, the most apropos, “pearls mean tears.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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