There, in a glass case lay a large orb, clear as if it, too, were made of the glass, but glittering with the thousands of polypartite, invisible colours. Perfectly cut into a brilliant round, and without a single imperfection.
"Isn't she just? The beauty of a woman- and with a sharp enough side, too! But the magic of a jewel instead."
"You do not suppose that women are magic?" Christophe remarked, distracted.
"Not at all. Scorned things should remain scorned in their vicious discouragement. If I were to give love to a woman again, it would be to a sister or a daughter- both, alas, that shall never be!"
“And I will never know reciprocation of the intensity of all a woman’s facets,” Christophe muttered in the same self-strict tone. “To contain a love of fortune should already be enough of too much.”
"You speak well, Christophe."
"Moi? I simply strive towards what I know." He paused, always watching as Albert- in full curator mode- unlocked the glass dress with a key attached to his pocket-watch chain. "You mentioned thefts. Well, I can understand the appeal with all my heart, but how...?"
“You may handle her, Christophe. I can see how your eyes gleam.”
“Are you sure, sir? I mean…”
“You have the intuitiveness; you act like the English I have known, and your place could certainly be as a companion to me. Please, it’s been a while since I have let anyone see her in an unofficial capacity.”
Elle? Words flitted through Christophe’s curious mind at that certain word that he had ignored every other time Albert had said it. A beautiful jewel was worthy of a fair gender- and thus a name, he concluded.
Christophe voiced this latter half of this thought-complex to Lord Albert, who steadily replied, “she I call the Leonaise. Beautiful, rare, a shining beacon.”
“Her dark sister, the Cartonaise, lies in some vaults. Only Leonaise was kept in view, being the prettier, of course.”
Christophe gently took the Leonaise from her owner, marvelling at the diamond’s pure face, formed somewhere in the depths of England, so he was told.
“What it would be like to own such a possession!”
“It is a privilege,” Lord Albert said sharply. “She didn’t used to be kept under such a lock and key. There was a time when her bed was silk, free silk in the air, and the Bruges travellers took advantage of her freedom. I’ll tell you something that is queer, though, Christophe.”
“Three times now has my jewel been taken, and I still believe that this extraordinary precaution is the best yet. A whole fortnight since she has left my site. A whole four months since the works began.”
“Only two months since the museum opened?”
“How is that strange?”
“That is not. What, indeed, I find peculiar is this: after she was stolen, I put out notice of the fact, of Leonaise’s absence, asking- begging- for assistance, and possible reward on return. Many turned out to attempt the impossible, but none came to me if they did find her.
“Instead, one morning after the Leonaise had been taken, I was dusting in here. I looked to the case subconsciously and there she was, sitting as if she had never left me. There was no note, no claim of reward, and no clue to who the thief had been.”
Christophe, who was still clutching the large diamond, lifted it to his eye and stared.
“Curious.” For it was certainly a curious mishap.
“That’s not all. A week later, even through my extended vigilance over Leonaise, exactly the same thing happened.”
“Identical situation. In what I did once the Leonaise vanished- and her return.”
“Nameless?” asked Christophe, returning the Leonaise to her owner.
“Yes; and the third attempt- or rather, success- gave a return of the same. That was two weeks ago when I implemented the key-retrieval idea. Only a few know where I keep my key.”
Christophe coloured once again; he knew he belonged to that select group now.
“Practically impossible that she will be stolen now,” Albert continued. “But you do agree that is peculiar?”
“Most.” He rubbed his forehead with a worn hand. “I’ve not come across such a situation previous.”
“Now I am the proud owner ‘til death.”
“Hmm. What would someone want with a ‘temporary diamond’? Had there been any changes acted upon her?”
“Don’t ask me. I am no…policeman. It’s definitely my Leonaise, for no other jewel carved could rival her image. Her weight, too. You felt that pull, didn’t you?”
“In every sense. That is a proper diamond, yes.”
“No one has uncovered such a size, either.”
“She was fine, she was not damaged. Come, Christophe. I shall take you to my office, access your potential.”
Christophe grinned, carefully studying the locking away of the Leonaise. The overhead light flickered off by Lord Albert’s hand, and he gestured that Christophe follow him back out the front, away from what must have been the visitors’ entrance.