The Ring with the Green Stone
Ann Livingstone sat swaying back and forth in her green cane rocker on her front porch. About her was such strength of green light of tree-boughs, ruffling in a southwest wind, that even the folds of her black-silk skirt showed faint reflexes of that color. Her smooth, blond hair had a greenish cast. It was, of all her fair, slender, middle-aged figure, as if it were seen through depths of levels of green water, like a mermaid's. It may be that people, like landscapes, have their color-schemes. Ann had always loved the soothing background color of the earth-green. She had surrounded herself with it. Her home was vine-screened and surrounded by trees and hedges. In her youth she had worn green gowns; now she wore black, and left the green to her daughter Ruth, who had inherited her mother's love of the color.
The porch was sweet with blooming roses and elder-flowers, and other indefinite odors, blending in a bouquet of perfume. Presently there cut through it a pungent odor of tobacco. Ann glanced over her shoulder and saw her brother Stephen's face framed in a window. It was a large, handsome, elderly face, white-bearded and keen-eyed.
“Has Ruth come?” the man asked.
“No. I am waiting for her. You know she stayed at Jim Gordon's mother's longer than she expected. Charlotte Gordon was perfectly sweet when Jim became engaged to Ruth; she insisted that he should use the setting of her own engagement-ring for the one he gave Ruth, and it was too small and had to be enlarged.”
“What became of the stone in Jim's mother's own ring?”
“She must have lost it, I suppose. Anyway, the setting is hand-wrought Indian gold and very beautiful.”
“What is the stone?”
“Oh, an emerald, of course. Ruth is as much a crank over green as her old mother. Here she comes now. She will be so delighted to see you.”
The man lounged out as a car rolled up, and a girl sprang out. She was fair, like her mother, very pretty, and clad in pale green like a fairy. She fluttered lightly up the steps, kissed her mother, and made round blue eyes of interrogation at the man.
“Your uncle Stephen, dearest,” said Ann. “He has left the West for good, and is going to stay here with us.”
The girl made a dart at the man. She flung her arms around his neck. She was curiously childlike in her ways. Her voice even struck unexpectedly sudden high, sweet cadences, like a child's.
“I am so glad you have come, Uncle Stephen!” said she.
Ruth's hair was of a light, feathery quality, fluffed about her small face. She stood looking at her uncle smilingly, and teetered a little on her toes, with an effect of dancing.
“Does she look like me, Stephen?” asked Ann.
“She looks like herself, and nobody else on earth, unless it is a queer kind of humming-bird,” said Stephen.
He held the girl off and shook her slender shoulders and regarded her with tenderness, this little, slight beauty of a girl, who looked at him with the questioning eyes of a child, ready to be loved, ready to shrink if flouted. Suddenly a serious expression came over her face.
“You know about Jim?” she asked. “Mother has told you?”
“She has told me you were going to leave just as I got where I could see a little of you and your mother after all these years,” said Stephen. He looked rather grave. His own romance of life had failed.
“Jim and I are always to spend our summers here,” said Ruth; “and if you stay with mother, everything will be just complete. All that troubled me was leaving mother, winters. Of course she will stay a great deal in the city with Jim and me. And now you can come, too, Uncle Stephen. I am not going to leave.”
“Girls like you are born to leave,” said Stephen, laughing. “What are wings for?”
Ruth, starting quickly, stood away and gazed intently at her left hand.
“What is the matter, Ruth?” asked her mother.
“My ring doesn't shine as much as I thought it did,” Ruth answered.
“It is only because it is so dark in here. You must remember this porch is always twilight with the vines.”
“I suppose that is it. But it startled me all of a sudden. It had always blazed up in my eyes like a green dew-drop, and then it did not.”
“Nonsense,” said Ann. “You forget that no jewel except a diamond will show much light in a gloomy place.”
“And not all diamonds,” said Stephen. His shrewd eyes looked shrewder. “May I see your ring now, Ruth?” he asked.
Ruth extended her hand simply. She looked at him for admiration. Stephen bent over the little hand, on which was the ring with the large green stone. He gave a hardly perceptible start.
“Isn't it a beauty, Uncle Stephen?”
“Do you object to taking the ring off, dear?” asked Stephen.
Ruth laughed. “Oh, goodness, no! I am not superstitious, and, anyway, the ring has been off since Jim put it on a number of times. The setting was Mrs. Gordon's, Jim's mother's. It was too large, and it had to be altered. I was without any engagement-ring for several days while I was away.”
Ruth took the ring from her finger and handed it to her uncle. He rose leisurely and went down the steps into the broad sunlight. When he returned he looked pale, but he was smiling.
Ruth held out her hand for the ring. “Isn't it wonderful, Uncle Stephen?” she cried eagerly.
“Yes, very wonderful. Nothing like an emerald for beauty among the whole list of gems,” replied Stephen.
While his niece was readjusting the ring he made a slight gesture to his sister.
“You had better go to your room and change your dress for dinner, dear,” Ann said immediately.
After the girl had gone Stephen turned to his sister, and her face was as pale as his. “What is it, Stephen?”
“Ann, you must simply call up your courage.”
“I am ready,” said she, steadily.
“That stone is not an emerald. It is only a clever imitation.”
“I am positive. I know quite a good deal about gems. It is a clever imitation; I have never seen one just like it. When the child spoke about its not shining I began to suspect. When I had it down there in the sunlight, I knew.”
“Stephen, do you realize the full import if it is not?”
“Yes, I am afraid I do. Can the child hear?”
“No; her room is on the other side.”
“It means a good deal more than a fake gem. It means a fake man.”
“Stephen, there must be some mistake. Jim Gordon is the soul of honor. He cannot know.”
“Where did he buy the stone?”
“At Lord & Lovejoy's.”
“The best and most reliable firm in the city. Are you sure?”
“He said so. He said, and laughed, that he had to take their word for it; that he knew nothing about precious stones. He said that they declared it was the finest emerald that had ever come into their possession.”
Stephen Ward looked grim. “I will make it my business to see these gentlemen to-morrow,” said he. “I will take the ring in and ask a few questions.”
“Stephen, Ruth will suspect.”
“She will have to know finally, I fear, in simple justice to her and her future life. But she will not suspect to-morrow. The stone is a little loose in the setting. Queer work that is for a firm like Lord & Lovejoy.”
“What, dear? Don't look so pale.”
“There may be a dishonest salesman.”
“Yes, there may be. I intend to find out.”
“It is not, of course, the value of the stone,” said Ann in a low, distressed voice. “It is the imputation cast upon —”
“The man who gave it to her? Yes.”
“Jim is rich. He can afford anything. But if he were poor — to give her an imitation gem and tell her it was an emerald —”
“It means, of course, that the man ranks with the spurious stone,” said Stephen Ward.
“Don't tell Ruth.”
“Why, Ann, would you dare not tell her?”
“It would break her heart.”
“It might be a cleaner break than she would get if she married the man.”
“It may be the salesman. You know there are dishonest salesmen. You know there are, Stephen.”
“Yes, there are. We will call it the salesman to-night. We won't let the child suspect. There is no sense in doing that until I have made sure.” Stephen sat staring gloomily. He was reflecting. “A firm like Lord & Lovejoy does not employ dishonest salesmen.” The sentence rang in his mental consciousness; however, he concealed it.
The next morning it was easy enough to tell Ruth that he had discovered when he had examined the ring the night before that the setting was loose, and that he was going to the city on business, and would take the ring to the jeweler's and have it attended to, and bring it back with him that night.
Ruth agreed in a panic. “Oh,” she cried, “how perfectly dreadful it would be if I had lost my beautiful emerald the way Jim's mother lost the stone from this same setting! Oh, do take it, Uncle Stephen, and be sure they fix it to-day, because Jim may be here to-morrow, and I don't want him to find me without it.”
When Stephen returned that night he found his sister alone on the porch.
“Ruth has gone out in the Waites' car,” she said.
“I am glad,” said Stephen, settling heavily into a chair and wiping his forehead. The day had been warm.
Ann looked at him, with apprehension.
“It is pretty bad, Ann. That is, it looks pretty bad.”
“I was at once assured, with no questions on my part, by the senior member of the firm, that of course no one in their employ could be for a second suspected. I had to agree. The supposition is as practically impossible, with people like that, as spurious stones.”
“I saw Mr. Lord and his son, and Mr. Lovejoy and others. I stayed an hour in their private office. A magnificent emerald was put in the setting of this ring.”
Stephen took the little box from his pocket, opened it, and removed the ring. The green stone, exactly the color of an emerald, greeted their scrutiny like a defiant eye of mystery. “They said a great deal about the beauty of the setting,” Stephen remarked, gloomily.
“And the stone?”
“They said very little. I said very little. What could I say? The members of that old firm are gentlemen. Besides, my position was peculiar. I could not accuse them of selling an imitation emerald to the man engaged to be married to my own niece. You understand very well that —”
Ann's face paled, and took on an expression as of one who faced fire. “I understand perfectly that a counter-accusation might have been made; and yet, Jim Gordon —”
“Jim is no more of a gentleman, he has no greater reputation for honor, than the members of that old and honorable commercial house.”
“Jim simply could not knowingly have given Ruth a spurious emerald for a betrothal ring,” Ann said.
“No; I agree with you. He could not. He did not. And yet —”
“You think Ruth must be told?”
“It is imperative that Ruth be told.”
“She will not be in the least influenced. Her faith in Jim will not waver a hair.”
“All the same, in simple justice to the child, she must be told.”
Ann leaned her head back on her chair. “You will have to tell her, Stephen,” she said, faintly. “Ruth must not associate her own mother with this horrible thing.”
“Very well, I will tell her,” replied Stephen. “It is not an enviable task, but I agree with you. She must not have the first shock from her mother. It is monstrous.”
“She will be home before long,” said Ann. She regarded her brother pitifully.
“You go to your room, old girl, and lie down, and leave me to face the music,” Stephen said, kindly.
He was sitting alone on the porch, smoking, when Ruth returned. Her uncle thought he had never seen her look so lovely and so radiantly happy.
“Such a ride!” she cried. “And I have had a note from Jim, and he is coming to-night.”
“Here is your ring, my dear,” said Stephen. There was nothing unusual in his voice. Ruth held out her hand readily for the ring. She looked at the green stone and frowned a little.
“Strange how dim the emerald looks in here,” she said.
“Do you want me to tell you why, my dear?”
Ruth gazed at him. “Why? I don't understand what you mean, Uncle Stephen.”
“You know that I am rather wise about gems?”
“Yes, of course. Mother has told me. I know you have a valuable collection.”
“Are you sure you want me to tell you?”
“To tell why my emerald looks so very dim in this light? Yes.”
“My dear Ruth, it is not an emerald.”
“What is it?”
“A very clever imitation.”
Ruth's face did not change color, but all the lines seemed to harden. It was like watching the petrifaction of a rose.
Suddenly Ann's face appeared in the doorway. Her anxiety had not allowed her to remain absent. She listened, pale and breathless.
“Why do you think that?” Ruth asked in an even voice.
“I know considerable about gems. I have the opinions of Lord & Lovejoy and a recognized expert. That stone is not an emerald. Lord & Lovejoy sold an emerald. They did not sell that stone. Moreover, that firm never allowed a ring to leave their house as badly set as that was yesterday.”
Ruth turned slightly and saw her mother. “Will Lord & Lovejoy or anybody else make this public?” she asked.
“I have their word of honor that they will not, and you know that neither your mother nor I will, but Ruth —”
Ruth faced them both in a sudden whirl of defiance. “Listen,” she said in her voice with the high, childish note — “listen. I do not care what Lord & Lovejoy say; I do not care what anybody on earth says; I do not care now; I shall never care. I do not care whether this green stone in this ring is an emerald or not. It does not concern me. All that concerns me is Jim. All the world and all the precious stones in the world can never make any difference with me. I do not know anything about this green stone. I do not know how it got in the ring. Understand, mother; understand, Uncle Stephen, I do not care. You are never to speak to me of this again.”
“But, Ruth, you — must believe —” Ann began, faintly.
“I believe nothing, either one way or the other,” replied Ruth, with a sort of fierce radiance. “It is only that I do not care. It all means nothing to me. I love Jim, and he loves me. That is all. No green stone can separate us.”
Ruth kissed her mother and passed her, going into the house.
A ghastly expression was over Ann's face. “She will go on and marry him,” she said. “She will not speak of it to Jim. She knows nobody else will. As a matter of fact, I don't see how anybody ever can. There is no possible substantiality back of it. Jim Gordon never changed a real emerald for a false one and gave it to my girl.”
“I suppose that is true,” Stephen said, thoughtfully. “I don't really think one man at Lord & Lovejoy's suspected him. As a matter of fact, I wonder if they were not much nearer suspecting me. We cannot say one word to Jim, and yet, Ann, to let this marriage go on —”
“I am her mother,” said Ann, in a tragic voice.
“Ruth tells me that Jim is coming to-night.”
“Is he? She has heard, then. I thought he would come. Well, nothing can be done to-night. We must wait. Something may throw a light on the matter. I must go and dress now. We simply have to wait developments.”
“I suppose you are right,” assented Stephen, “but sometimes it has seemed to me that developments needed the lash and spur more than anything on God's earth.” He sighed, and followed his sister into the house.
Stephen was right about his estimate of the slowness of developments. Nothing whatever developed concerning the ring. The engagement was to be a short one. Ruth went on with her preparations. Jim was often at the house. The more Stephen saw of him, the more it seemed impossible to suspect him.
One evening shortly before the day set for the marriage, Jim unconsciously strengthened his own cause. He had been watching Ruth's slender hand move as she was sewing, and suddenly he said: “Give me your hand a second, Ruth. No; rather, take the emerald off. I want to look at it.”
Ruth obeyed. Then she bent her head closely over her work. Jim held the ring up to the light. He shook his head.
“I know absolutely nothing about gems,” he said; “but if I had not bought this emerald from Lord & Lovejoy's I would most certainly think I had been cheated. Of course it must be the magnificent emerald they told me it was, but I must say I would never dream it. Mr. Ward, you look at the thing. You are a connoisseur. You tell me what you think of it.”
Ruth shot one glance at her uncle as he took the ring. It was rather a terrible glance. It was full of deadly terror, of fierce command. Stephen nodded slightly at her. He held the ring up to the light.
“Of course it must be all right, coming from such a firm as that,” he said.
“Yes, I suppose so, but how does it look to you?”
“It has the perfect emerald color,” Stephen said.
“I know that, but somehow, to me — of course I am no judge — it lacks life.”
“How can you, Jim?” said Ruth, sharply. “It is perfectly beautiful. Jewels are not alive.”
“That is just it,” said Jim. “I had a vague idea that they were. What do you think, Mr. Ward?”
“The perfect emerald tint,” Stephen repeated. “As for the rest, I don't pretend to be exactly an expert on precious stones, though I might assume that I was on semi-precious.”
“I have half a mind to take that ring to Lord & Lovejoy's to-morrow,” said Jim, as he gave it back to Ruth.
She started and paled. “Jim, you can't,” she cried.
“I hardly see how you can,” said Stephen. “Lord & Lovejoy have such a reputation that it would amount to an insult.”
“I suppose you are right,” Jim said, doubtfully. “I suppose it would not do, and the stone must be just what they represented. I am no judge. Sometimes I think that education, generally speaking, should provide knowledge of things of such value.”
“It is a magnificent ring,” said Ruth, “and I shall refuse to take it off many more times. I shall begin to be superstitious.”
After Jim and Ruth had gone for a little stroll in the moonlight, Ann looked at her brother. “What did you think of that?” she asked.
“He is either absolutely above suspicion or the cleverest impostor of his generation,” said Stephen. “Personally I have no doubt. The man simply does not know. Sometimes I wonder if —”
“If he ought not, in common justice, to be told.”
“Stephen, how could he be told without implying suspicion?”
“I confess I don't see,” replied Stephen, thoughtfully. “If it was anything on earth except an engagement-ring, and if we were not so absolutely sure, in spite of this evidence, that the man is all right! I am sure of that. At first, before I had seen so much of him — I did not own it to you — but I doubted. Now I am as sure of him as I am of myself; perhaps I am surer. I am inclined to think a jury would find the case rather strong against me.” Stephen laughed.
“Don't laugh, brother. It is dreadful, in spite of everything. How do you account for it?”
“I don't account for it. I have a firm opinion that there is a large class of incidents in this world beyond all known laws of accountability. I think poor Ruth's bogus emerald belongs to that class. We must simply put it out of our minds as much as possible, Ann.”
“I see no other way, with the wedding next week,” said Ann, miserably. “I hope everything will be right, and Ruth will be happy; but she is my only child, and to begin her matrimonial life with a sham gem for her betrothal-ring — Oh, Stephen, are you sure it is sham?”
“I wish I were not sure,” Stephen said, fervently.
Ruth was married the next week. Not one word had been said to her about the ring after her conversation with her uncle. She had seemed radiantly happy. If she had a shade of distrust, she did not betray it; but she probably had none. Ruth was essentially feminine. She placed affection and emotion in the vanguard of her life. She was even capable of entirely dismissing reason and logic for the sake of preserving in integrity her affection and trust.
Ann thought sometimes that she did in this case. After the wedding, when the young couple had gone, she spoke of it to her brother.
“I really wonder if Ruth believes what you told her,” she said. The two were sitting alone in the room sweet with Ruth's bridal flowers.
“She believes it, but she has hidden the belief from herself,” said Stephen. “I know that type of woman, and Ruth is a perfect specimen of it.”
“I hope she will be happy.”
“It will take more than a sham emerald to make her unhappy with a man whom she loves as she loves Jim,” replied Stephen. “If there is any alchemy in faith and love, Ruth will have that stone pure emerald before she has done with it. She will be happy. Don't worry, Ann.”
Stephen was right. Ruth was entirely happy in her new life. She and Jim had been married nearly two years before the next unexplainable thing happened about the ring with the green stone. Ruth and Jim had just come to Ann's place for the summer, and Stephen noticed at once that Ruth was not wearing the ring. She spoke about it to him the next day. She looked confused, which was unusual for her.
“Are you going to the city to-day, Uncle Stephen?” she said.
Jim had already left on an early train, and she and her uncle were alone on the porch. Ann was busy in the house. Stephen detected an anxious note in the girl's voice.
“Why, yes, I thought I would go,” he replied. “I have a little matter of business to attend to, and it is a good day, not too hot. Anything you want me to do?”
Ruth hesitated. She even flushed a little. “If you are sure it will not bother you, I do wish you would leave my ring, my engagement-ring, you know” — Ruth's voice was hesitant — “at Lord & Lovejoy's. My finger is larger. You know I have gained a little flesh. Lately, when Jim has not been at home to notice it, I have not worn it. It has hurt me. I could not get it on yesterday. Jim did not notice, and I was glad. I want the setting enlarged just a little. I have the piece which they took from the original setting, you know. They said it had better be kept in case it ever needed changing.”
“I will be glad to take the ring to Lord & Lovejoy's, my dear,” said Stephen. Inwardly he realized a rueful sensation. He had been almost convinced that he had been an object of suspicion to some of the gentlemen in that jewelry firm. He made no comment on the fact that Jim had not been told of the tightness of the ring, and had not been commissioned to do the errand. “Get the ring, my dear,” said Stephen. “I am going on the eleven-five train.”
Before leaving, Stephen had a chance for a word with his sister. He told her of Ruth's request.
Ann looked anxious. “Somehow I dislike to have that ring taken anywhere, or brought into discussion again,” said she. “Ruth seems so perfectly happy in her married life, and that ring with its green stone has always seemed to me a danger-mark.”
“Don't worry, Ann,” said Stephen. “Nothing can come of it unless Lord & Lovejoy have me arrested on suspicion.”
“I don't think they will,” said Stephen, reassuringly. “I was really the only person whom Ruth could ask to do the errand, you know.”
“Yes, I do know,” said Ann, “but it is rather hard on you, Stephen. Why don't you take the ring to another place?”
“Oh, it is a particular piece of work, and that is the best place in the city. And, besides, on the whole, I find it rather amusing to be suspected.”
Stephen grinned and got into the car which was to take him to the station. He returned on an unexpectedly early train. He found the house very quiet. The day had proved warm, after all. Everybody except the servants was lying down. Stephen went directly to his sister's door and rapped.
“It is Stephen,” he said, warily. “Put on a dressing-gown and come down to the library. I have something important to tell you.”
When Ann in her white-silk negligée entered the library, her brother spoke at once. “Ann,” he said, “I verily believe Satan himself has a finger in that affair of the ring with the green stone. What do you think has happened now?”
“What?” Ann gasped.
“Don't be frightened. I don't think it is anything to be frightened about unless you are scared of the occult. However, the affair has savored of the occult all through. Ann, that green stone is an emerald!”
Ann stared at him, her face paling.
“And not only that, but the emerald, the original emerald.”
“All suspicion seems now removed from me, but, unluckily, it centers elsewhere. I was even asked very delicately concerning poor Jim's success in his profession. It was hinted, so delicately as to suggest the thought of butterflies' wings, that money could have been raised on such a valuable stone, and then, when the financial pressure was removed, the stone restored.”
“Stephen, that is monstrous. What did you say?”
“I also used butterflies' wings for defense, and, I believe, swerved suspicion from Jim. I am inclined to think that now Lord & Lovejoy share my opinion concerning a large number of unexplainable events in the world. Mr. Lovejoy even went the length of saying that jewels were queer things, and that queer things happened. I left the firm titillated by mystery.”
“Shall you tell Ruth?”
“I ask you that.”
“Stephen, I don't know. Her faith in Jim is so beautiful. She has believed so, in spite of the evidence of reason and common sense, that I am not sure she has not been wearing a jewel more precious than any on earth. She will, of course, say, when she knows, that everybody has been mistaken. All that wonderful faith, in the face of everything, will lose its value. Stephen, are you sure you were right?”
“Sure that the stone I first saw was not an emerald? I wish I were as sure of anything else. Ann, I know. That was no emerald which I carried to Lord & Lovejoy's two years ago.”
“But you don't think that Jim —”
“Pawned it? Not for a second. It is simply another incident of that unexplainable class. Shall I tell Ruth?”
“Let me think of it overnight.”
But Ann thought of it longer, for that night Jim and Ruth were summoned by a telegram to the little suburban village where Charlotte Gordon had her permanent home. She had been staying with her son in the city for several weeks, and had gone home when they went for the summer to Ruth's mother's place.
Charlotte Gordon had been seized by her last illness. She died in a week's time, and it was two weeks before the family were settled into a saddened peace for the summer. Jim had worshiped his mother, and Ruth had grown very fond of her.
It was three weeks after Charlotte had been buried that the third incident happened with regard to the ring, or as all, with the exception of Jim himself, thought with regard to the ring. He did not know. He never knew.
One evening he came down-stairs bringing a tiny box. He went to Stephen with it. “I found this in poor mother's jewel-casket,” he said. “She had some valuable jewelry; not much, but good. This puzzled me. It was in a box by itself. See what you think of it, Uncle Stephen.”
Stephen opened the box. Inside was a tiny twist of green tissue paper on a bed of green jeweler's cotton. Stephen carefully untwisted the paper. They were all out on the vine-screened porch. They crowded around to look. Stephen held between his thumb and forefinger a large, green stone. He felt a thrill of horror. He knew that stone. He glanced at Ann. She looked pale and frightened. Ruth looked excited. Jim was the only one who wore the natural expression of simple curiosity.
“Is it an emerald?” Jim asked. “It is the same color as Ruth's emerald.”
“It is the same color, but it is not an emerald,” replied Stephen.
“The light is very dim here,” said Ruth.
“That makes no difference. It is not an emerald.”
Ruth looked triumphantly at the ring on her finger. “Then — this —” she began.
Ann interrupted her daughter. She held a letter in her hand. She looked pale and solemn. “I have a letter here which I must read,” she said. She turned to Jim. “It is from your mother,” she said. “She had it sent to me with the request that I read it to all of you. It is not exactly a letter, but a statement. I hesitate to read it because, although she excuses him, it may involve your father, Jim.”
Jim started. “Read it,” he said, grimly. His father had died when he was a mere boy. His memory of him was loyal, but not wholly tending to admiration. “It is high time this ghastly green mystery is cleared up if it can be,” said Jim Gordon. “It now concerns the living, and the living are more to be considered than the dead. And, after all, the dead are protected by the consideration of all honorable souls.”
Ann read. There were only a few lines. There was no preface. It began abruptly:
“I think it was an emerald at first. I am sure my lover then, my husband now, did not give me a spurious stone. I must always hold to that belief. He had plenty of money. His family had the reputation of miserliness, but he could not have given me at the very first an imitation emerald. Everything points like a dreadful finger straight at my common sense that he did, but I will not believe. He bought it at Lord & Lovejoy's. I will not believe. Then the ring was too tight. I took it myself to a jeweler — not Lord & Lovejoy's — another. He told me. I had the setting enlarged. I wore the ring. I never spoke. The child came. My husband died. I waited a little while; then I went to the same jeweler, and old man with whom my own father used to deal. He took this poor green stone out of the setting, and I wore the setting without it. People wondered, but I did not care. The setting at least was good, even wonderful. People thought I had lost the stone. Then Jim became engaged to Ruth. I wanted to prove the girl. I wanted my son to have a better than his poor father had. Loyalty is worth more than any gem on earth. I should have kept my poor husband beyond suspicion in my own heart, since I was his wife. I had my chance. I went to my jeweler. Ruth has stood the test. Now she has the emerald, I leave the stone which I had taken from my own ring, unworthily taken, with the injunction that he believe in the unbelievable, that he believes in reasons so great to justify everything that he holds sacred the memory of his father for the sake of his mother who failed him.
“And I bid him thank God for his wife, who holds him above the evidence of her own reason triumphant over the sins which he might have committed.”
It ended abruptly. Suddenly the situation became illuminated by a light which sanctified it. They all saw the poor woman who had finished her life on earth, who had been deceived, and whose love had not stood the test of deception, that last fiery test for love of first water. They saw her putting another woman to that same test, and proving the possibility of a love past all logic and reason, the most precious gem of the earth.
Ruth held up her left hand, and the great emerald gleamed wonderfully. In its green depths, which seemed fathomless, could be imagined tossing seas, magic springtide of youth, all gracious fancies and romances for which the lovely color served as key-note.
“Put away your poor mother's stone very carefully,” said Ruth, with tears in her eyes. “It seems to me that her love and suffering and death have made it a real emerald, after all, and made it true that your father gave it to her. Put away your poor mother's emerald very carefully, Jim dear, just as she kept it.”