Read CHAPTER TEN - CAVEAT EMPTOR of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

For many years Mr. Herman Wolfson had so conducted the auctioneering business that he could look the whole world, including the district attorney, in the eye and tell ’em to go jump on themselves. This was by no means an easy thing to do, when the wavering line of demarcation between right and wrong often depends on the construction of a comma in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Nevertheless, under the competent advice of Henry D. Feldman, that eminent legal practitioner, Mr. Wolfson had prospered; and although his specialty was the purchasing en bloc of the stock in trade and fixtures of failing shopkeepers, not once had he been obliged to turn over his purchases to the host of clamouring creditors.

“My skirts I keep it clean,” he explained to Philip Borrochson, whose retail jewellery business had proved a losing venture and was, therefore, being acquired by Mr. Wolfson at five hundred dollars less than its actual value, “and if I got an idée you was out to do somebody myself or anybody else I wouldn’t have nothing to do with you, Mr. Borrochson.”

The conversation took place in the business premises of Mr. Borrochson, a small, poorly-stocked store on Third Avenue, one Sunday morning in January, which is always a precarious month in the jewellery trade.

“If it should be the last word what I ever told it you, Mr. Wolfson,” Borrochson declared, “I ain’t got even a piece of wrapping-paper on memorandum. Everything in my stock is a straight purchase at sixty and ninety days. You can take my word for it.”

Mr. Wolfson nodded.

“When I close the deal to buy the place, Borrochson,” he said, “I’ll take more as your word for it. You got a writing from me just now, and I’ll get a writing from you. I’ll take your affidavit, the same what Henry D. Feldman draws it in every case when I buy stores. There ain’t never no mistakes in them affidavits, neither, Borrochson, otherwise the party what makes it is got ten years to wait before he makes another one.”

“Sure, I know it, you can make me arrested if I faked you, Mr. Wolfson,” Borrochson replied, “but this is straight goods.”

“And how about them showcases?” Wolfson asked.

“Only notes I give it for ’em,” Borrochson answered him. “I ain’t give a chattel mortgage or one of them conditional bill-off-sales on so much as a tin tack.”

“Well, Feldman will look out for that, Borrochson,” Wolfson replied, “and the safe, too.”

Borrochson started.

“I thought I told it you about the safe,” he exclaimed.

“You ain’t told me nothing about the safe,” Wolfson answered. “The writing what I give you says the stock and fixtures.”

Borrochson took out the paper which Wolfson had just signed, and examined it carefully.

“You’re wrong,” Borrochson said. “I stuck it in the words ’without the safe’ before you signed it.”

Wolfson rose heavily to his feet.

“Let see it the writing,” he said, making a grab for it.

“It’s all right,” Borrochson replied. “Here it is, black on white, ‘without the safe.’”

“Then you done me out of it,” Wolfson cried.

“I didn’t done you out of nothing,” Borrochson retorted. “You should of read it over before you signed it, and, anyhow, what difference does the safe make? It ain’t worth fifty dollars if it was brand-new.”

“Without a safe a jewellery stock is nothing,” Wolfson said. “So if you told it me you wouldn’t sell the safe I wouldn’t of signed the paper. You cheated me.”

He walked toward the door of the store and had about reached it when it burst open to admit a tall, slight man with haggard face and blazing eyes. He rushed past Wolfson, who turned and stared after him.

“Mr. Borrochson,” the newcomer cried, “what’s the use your fooling me any longer? Five hundred dollars I will give for the safe, and that’s my last word.”

“Sssh!” Borrochson hissed, and drew his visitor toward the end of the store. There a whispered conversation took place with frequent outbursts of sacred and profane exclamations from the tall, slender person, who finally smacked Borrochson’s face with a resounding slap and ran out of the store.

“Bloodsucker!” he yelled as he slammed the door behind him. “You want my life.”

Wolfson stared first at the departing stranger and then at Borrochson, who was thoughtfully rubbing his red and smarting cheek.

“It goes too far!” Borrochson cried. “Twicet already he does that to me and makes also my nose bleed. The next time I make him arrested.”

“What’s the matter with him?” Wolfson asked. “Is he crazy?”

“He makes me crazy,” Borrochson replied. “I wish I never seen the safe.”

“The safe!” Wolfson exclaimed. “What’s he got to do with the safe?”

“Oh, nothing,” Borrochson answered guardedly; “just a little business between him and me about it.”

“But, Mr. Borrochson,” Wolfson coaxed, “there can’t be no harm in telling me about it.”

He handed a cigar to Borrochson, who examined it suspiciously and put it in his pocket.

“Seed tobacco always makes me a stomachache,” he said, “unless I smoke it after a meal.”

“That ain’t no seed tobacco,” Wolfson protested; “that’s a clear Havana cigar. But anyhow, what’s the matter with this here Who’s-this and the safe?”

“Well,” Borrochson commenced, “the feller’s name is Rubin, and he makes it a failure in the jewellery business on Rivington Street last June already. I went and bought the safe at the receiver’s sale, and ever since I got it yet he bothered the life out of me I should sell him back the safe.”

“Well, why don’t you do it?”

“Because we can’t come to terms,” Borrochson replied. “He wants to give me five hundred for the safe, and I couldn’t take it a cent less than seven-fifty.”

“But what did you give for the safe when you bought it originally already?” Wolfson asked.

“Forty-five dollars.”

Wolfson whistled.

“What’s the matter with it?” he said finally.

“To tell you the candid and honest truth,” Borrochson replied, “I don’t see nothing the matter with the safe. Fifty dollars I paid it to experts who looked at that safe with telescopes already, like they was doctors, and they couldn’t find nothing the matter with it, neither. The safe is a safe, they say, and that’s all there is to it.”

Wolfson nodded gravely.

“But there must be something the matter with the safe. Ain’t it?”

“Sure, there must be,” Borrochson agreed, “and if Rubin don’t want to buy it back, either I will blow it up the safe or melt it down.”

“That would be a foolish thing to do,” Wolfson said.

“Well, if the safe is worth five hundred to Rubin,” Borrochson declared, “it’s worth seven hundred and fifty to me. That’s the way I figure it.”

Wolfson blew great clouds from one of his seed tobacco cigars and pondered for a minute.

“I tell you what I’ll do, Borrochson,” he said at last. “Give me a day to examine the safe and I’ll make you an offer right now of five hundred and fifty for it.”

Borrochson laughed raucously.

“What do you think I am?” he said. “A greenhorn?”

Then commenced a hard, long battle in which a truce was declared at six hundred dollars.

“But mind you,” Wolfson said, “I should be alone when I examine the safe.”

“Alone without a safe feller you couldn’t do nothing,” Borrochson declared, “but if you mean that I shouldn’t be there to see the whole thing, I tell you now the deal is off.”

“Don’t you trust me?” Wolfson asked, in accents of hurt astonishment.

“Sure I trust you,” Borrochson said; “but if you should find it a big diamond, we will say, for instance, in that safe, where would I come in?”

“You think I would steal the diamond and tell you nothing, and then refuse to take the safe?” Wolfson asked.

“I don’t think nothing,” Borrochson replied stubbornly, and lapsed into silence.

Here was a deadlock that bade fair to break up the deal.

“Take a chance on me, Borrochson,” Wolfson said at last.

“Why should I take a chance on you, Wolfson,” Borrochson replied, “when we can both take a chance on the safe? If you don’t want to take it, I will take it. You don’t got to buy the safe, Wolfson, if you don’t want to.”

For five minutes more Wolfson pondered and at length he surrendered.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll make you this proposition: If I find it anything in the safe I will pay you six hundred, and if I don’t find it nothing in the safe, I will pay you one hundred dollars for the privilege of looking. I’m willing to take a chance, too.”

“That ain’t no chance what you take it,” Borrochson cried. “That’s a dead-sure certainty.”

“Why is it a certainty, Borrochson?” Wolfson retorted. “If I don’t find nothing in the safe you can keep it, and then you got it one hundred dollars from me; and when Rubin comes into the store you could sell him the safe for five hundred dollars, anyway. So which whatever way you look at it, Borrochson, you get six hundred dollars for the safe.”

Borrochson frowned in deep consideration of the plan.

“I tell you what it is, Wolfson,” he said at last, “and this is my last word, so sure as you stand there. If you don’t want to consider it, the deal is off. Pay me two hundred dollars now in advance and four hundred dollars additional when you find it something in the safe. That is all there is to it.”

Wolfson looked hard at Borrochson, but there was a glitter of finality in the jeweller’s eyes that clinched things.

“And you and the safe feller can look at the safe alone,” Borrochson concluded.

“I’m satisfied,” Wolfson said finally, and drew a checkbook from his waistcoat-pocket.

Borrochson raised his hand solemnly.

“Either cash oder nothing,” was his ultimatum, and Wolfson replaced the checkbook in his vest pocket and drew a roll of bills from his trousers. He peeled off two hundred dollars and handed it to Borrochson.

“You see,” he said, “I trust you. Ain’t it?”

“You got to trust me,” Borrochson replied, as Wolfson rose to examine the safe.

“Who did you get to look at the safe?” he asked Borrochson.

“Experts from everywhere,” Borrochson replied. “I must of got ten fellers here from every big safe house in town. I can show you the bills already.”

Wolfson waved his hand.

“I don’t want to see ’em,” he said. “But on the front of the safe I see it, J. Daiches, maker, Grand Street, New York. Did you have him to look at it?”

“Daiches!” Borrochson repeated with a laugh. “I should say I didn’t get him to look at it. Why, that feller Daiches don’t know no more about safes than I do about aljibbery what they learn it young fellers by night school. He come from Minsk ten years ago and made it a little money as an operator on shirts. So he buys out a feller in Grand Street and goes into the safe business since only a year ago.”

“I take a chance on him, anyhow,” Wolfson declared. “So do me the favour and go to the saloon on the corner and ring him up.”

Borrochson shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re up against a bum proposition in Daiches, Wolfson,” he said, “because that feller don’t know nothing about safes.”

“But he’s in the safe business, ain’t he? And a feller can learn a whole lot about a business inside a year.”

“A horse could pull it a truckload of books for a hundred years, Wolfson,” Borrochson said, “and when he got through he wouldn’t know no more what’s inside of them books than when he started; ain’t it?”

“’S enough, Borrochson,” Wolfson said, “if you’re afraid to trust me alone in the store here while you go and telephone, why we can lock up the store and I will go with you.”

Accordingly they repaired to the sabbatical entrance of the nearest liquor saloon and rang up Daiches’ store in Grand Street. They had no difficulty in speaking to him, for on the lower end of Grand Street business goes forward on Sunday as briskly as on weekdays.

“Mr. Daiches,” Borrochson said, “this is Philip Borrochson from Third Avenue. Could you come up by my store and look over my safe?”

“I ain’t in the market for no safes, Borrochson,” Daiches replied at the other end of the telephone wire.

“Not to buy no safes,” Borrochson corrected. “There’s a feller here what wants you to look at my safe.”

“Tell him for five dollars,” Wolfson whispered in Borrochson’s ear.

“He wants to give you five dollars for the job,” Borrochson repeated.

“For five dollars is different,” Daiches answered. “I will be up in half an hour. Should I bring it tools?”

Borrochson turned to Wolfson.

“He wants to know should he bring it tools,” he said.

“Sure he should bring it tools,” Wolfson cried; “powder also.”

“Powder!” Borrochson exclaimed. “What for?”

“Powder what you blow it up with,” Wolfson answered.

“Positively not,” Borrochson declared. “I wouldn’t tell him nothing about powder. Might you wouldn’t find nothing in the safe, and when you blew it up already I couldn’t sell it to Rubin for a button.”

He turned to the ’phone again.

“Hullo, Daiches!” he said. “Bring up tools, sure; but remember what I tell you, you shouldn’t do nothing to harm the looks of the safe.”

“Sure not,” Daiches replied. “Good-bye.”

An hour later J. Daiches knocked at the door of the store and was admitted by Borrochson.

“Mr. Wolfson,” he said, “this is J. Daiches.”

“Pleased to meetcher,” Daiches replied. “Which is the job what I got to do it?”

They led him to the safe in the rear of the store.

“Why, that’s a safe what myself I sold it,” Daiches exclaimed. “What’s the matter with it?”

“Nothing’s the matter with it,” Wolfson said. “Only Borrochson should go outside on the sidewalk and stick there until we get through.”

“Tell me, Wolfson,” Borrochson said pleadingly, “why should I go outside?”

“An agreement is an agreement,” Wolfson replied firmly, and Borrochson left the store and slammed the door behind him.

“I’ll tell you the truth, Mr. Wolfson,” Daiches said; “my name is on the safe as maker, but I didn’t got nothing to do with making the safe. I bought the safe from a Broadway concern what put my name on the safe. So if the combination gets stuck it’s up to them.”

“There ain’t nothing the matter with the combination, Daiches,” Wolfson said, “only I got it an idée that safe must have a secret apartment.”

“A secret apartment!” Daiches exclaimed. “Well, if that’s the case somebody put it on after I sold it.”

Wolfson looked at Daiches, whose uninteresting face expressed all the intelligence of a tailor’s lay figure.

“Supposin’ they did,” Wolfson said, “it’s your business to find it out.”

“I thought you said it was a secret apartment.”

Wolfson made no reply; he felt that he was leaning on a broken reed, but he commenced to pull out the safe’s numerous drawers, all of which contained cheap jewellery.

“Let me help you do that, Mr. Wolfson,” Daiches said, and suited the action to the word by seizing the top drawer on the left-hand side of the safe. He jerked it clumsily from its frame without supporting the rear, and the next moment it fell heavily to the floor.

“Idiot!” Wolfson hissed, but simultaneously Daiches emitted a cry.

He pointed excitedly to the floor where the drawer lay upside down. A small velvet-lined tray extended from the rear of the drawer, while scattered on the floor beneath lay six unset diamonds that winked and sparkled in the half-light of the shuttered store.

Wolfson made a dart for the stones and had managed to tuck away three of them in his waistcoat pocket when Borrochson burst into the store and ran up to the safe.

“What’s the matter?” he gasped.

Wolfson wiped his forehead before replying.

“Nothing’s the matter,” he croaked. “What for you come into the store? Ain’t you agreed you shouldn’t?”

“Where did them diamonds come from?” Borrochson demanded, pointing to the three gems on the dusty floor.

“I dropped a drawer, the top one on the left-hand side,” Daiches said, lifting up the drawer and pointing to the secret slide in its rear, “and this here little tray jumps out.”

Wolfson turned on the little safe dealer with a terrible glare.

“You got to tell everything what you know,” he bellowed.

Borrochson smiled grimly.

“I guess it’s a good thing that I come in when I did, otherwise you would of schmeared Daiches a fifty dollar note that he shouldn’t tell me nothing about it, and then you would of copped out them diamonds and told me you didn’t find it nothing. Ain’t it?” he said.

Wolfson blushed.

“If you would say I am a thief, Borrochson,” he thundered, “I will make for you a couple blue eyes what you wouldn’t like already.”

“I ain’t saying nothing,” Borrochson replied. “All I want is you should pay me four hundred dollars balance on the safe and twenty-six hundred and fifty what we agreed on for the store and I am satisfied.”

“And how about my five dollars?” Daiches cried.

“That I will pay it you myself,” Borrochson said.

“Don’t do me no favours, Borrochson,” Wolfson exclaimed, “I will settle with Daiches.”

“But,” Daiches broke in again, “how about them diamonds, Mr. Wolfson?”

He looked significantly at Wolfson’s waistcoat pocket.

“What diamonds?” Borrochson asked.

“He means the diamonds what you just picked up off the floor,” Wolfson hastened to explain. “He wants his rakeoff, too, I suppose.”

He fastened another hypnotic glare on the shrinking Daiches and, taking the remaining diamonds from Borrochson, he put them with the others in his vest pocket.

“Well,” he concluded, “that I will settle with him, too. To-morrow is Monday and we will all meet at Feldman’s office at two o’clock. Daiches, you and me will go downtown together and take it a little dinner and some wine, maybe. What?”

He took Daiches’ arm in a viselike grasp and started to lead him from the store.

“Hold on there!” Borrochson cried. “How about them diamonds? You got the diamonds and all I get is two hundred dollars. What security have I got it that you don’t skip out with the diamonds and give me the rinky-dinks? Ain’t it?”

“About the stock and fixtures, you got it a writing from me. Ain’t it?” Wolfson cried. “And about the safe, Daiches here is a witness. I give you two hundred dollars a while ago, and the balance of four hundred dollars I will pay it you to-morrow at two o’clock when we close.”

He took the keys of the store from Borrochson after the door was locked, and once more he led Daiches to the street.

“Yes, Daiches,” he said, as they neared the elevated station, “that’s the way it is when a feller’s tongue runs away with him. You pretty near done yourself out of a fine diamond.”

“A fine diamond!” Daiches exclaimed. “What d’ye mean?”

“I mean, if you wouldn’t say nothing to Borrochson about them diamonds what I stuck it in my waistcoat pocket before he seen ’em, as soon as we close the deal I give you one. Because if you should say something to Borrochson, it would bust up the deal; and might he would sue me in the courts for the diamonds already.”

A shrewd glitter came into Daiches’ eyes.

“That’s where you make it a mistake, Mr. Wolfson,” he said. “If you give it me the diamond now, Mr. Wolfson, I sure wouldn’t say nothing to Borrochson about it, because I run it the risk of losing the diamond if I do. But if you wouldn’t give it me the diamond till after the deal is closed, then you wouldn’t need to give it me at all; y’understand?”

Wolfson stopped short in the middle of the sidewalk.

“You are a fine schwindler!” he said.

“Whether I am a schwindler or I ain’t a schwindler, Mr. Wolfson, is got no effect on me,” Daiches replied stolidly; “for otherwise, if I don’t get it the diamond right this minute I will go back and tell it all about the diamonds to Borrochson.”

Wolfson clenched his right fist and grasped Daiches by the shoulder with his left hand.

“You dirty dawg!” he began, when a tall, slender person bumped into him. The intruder was muttering to himself and his face was ghastly with an almost unnatural whiteness.

“Rubin!” Wolfson cried, and stared after the distracted Rubin who seemed to stagger as he half ran down the street.

“Leggo from my arm,” Daiches said, “or I’ll ”

Wolfson came to himself with a start. After all, Rubin would be around the next day to buy back his safe, and Wolfson argued that he might as well be rid of Daiches.

“All right, Daiches,” he said, “I’ll give you a diamond.”

He stopped under a lamppost and carefully placed the six diamonds in a little row on the flat of his hand between his second and third fingers. Then he selected the smallest of the six stones and handed it to Daiches.

“Take it and should you never have no luck so long as you wear it,” he grunted.

“Don’t worry yourself about that, Mr. Wolfson,” Daiches said with a smile. “I ain’t going to wear it; I’m going to sell it to-morrow.”

He folded it into a piece of paper and placed it in his greasy wallet, out of which he extracted a card.

“Here is also my card, Mr. Wolfson,” he said with a smile. “Any time you want some more work done by safes, let me know; that’s all.”

When Borrochson and Wolfson met the next afternoon in the office of the latter’s attorney, Henry D. Feldman, they wasted no courtesy on each other.

“Feldman has sent up and searched the Register’s office for chattel mortgages and conditional bill-off-sales, and he don’t find none,” Wolfson announced. “So everything is ready.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Borrochson said. “When I get into a piece of business with a bloodsucker like you, Wolfson, I am afraid for my life till I get through.”

“If I would be the kind of bloodsucker what you are, Borrochson,” Wolfson retorted, “I would be calling a decent, respectable man out of his name. What did I ever done to you, Borrochson?”

“You tried your best you should do me, Wolfson,” Borrochson replied.

“You judge me by what you would have done if you had been in my place, Borrochson,” Wolfson rejoined.

“Never mind,” Borrochson said. “Now we will close the whole thing up, and I want it distinctively understood that there should be no comebacks, Wolfson. You seen it my stock and fixtures, also my safe?”

“Sure I seen it and examined everything, and I don’t take your word for nothing, Borrochson,” Wolfson declared as they were summoned into the presence of Feldman himself.

There Borrochson executed a bill-of-sale of the stock, fixtures, and safe, in which he swore that he was their sole owner.

“It is distinctively understood,” Borrochson said, as he dipped his pen in the ink to sign the affidavit, “that I don’t guarantee nothing but what I am the owner of the goods. Quality and quantity he got to judge it for himself.”

Mr. Feldman bowed.

“In the absence of a specific warranty the same doctrine applies in this as in any other case,” he replied sonorously, “and that is the doctrine of caveat emptor.”

“Caviare?” Wolfson murmured in complete mystification. “What for caviare is that?”

“Caveat, not caviare,” Feldman replied. “Caveat emptor means ’Let the purchaser beware.’”

Wolfson heaved a deep sigh.

“I bet yer it applies in this case,” he commented; “if ever a purchaser had to beware it is in this case.”

Borrochson grunted and then pocketed Wolfson’s certified check for the balance of the purchase price, including the four hundred dollars due for the safe. A minute later he departed, leaving Feldman alone with his client.

“Mr. Feldman,” he said as soon as Borrochson had gone, “supposing a feller thinks that a safe has got diamonds into it, and supposing I got that safe, but I know there ain’t no diamonds into it because I took ’em out already. And supposing that feller doesn’t think that I know there was diamonds into the safe because them diamonds was supposed to be in a secret apartment what he only is supposed to know it. Supposing he buys the safe from me, thinking them diamonds is still into it, and pays me six hundred dollars for a safe what is only worth fifty. Would there be any comeback?”

“Decidedly not. And I sincerely hope you haven’t been buying any such safe.”

“Gott soll hueten!” Wolfson exclaimed.

“No, indeed, there will be no recourse to the vendor,” Feldman replied. “The doctrine of caveat emptor would apply in that case, too.”

Wolfson was effusive in his thanks and hastened to return to his recently acquired jewellery business.

When he left the elevated station on the way to the store Wolfson glanced around him for the haggard features and the attenuated form of Rubin, but without avail. He unlocked the store door and immediately made a thorough examination of the stock and fixtures. Nothing was missing, and, after consulting the figures furnished him by Borrochson, he succeeded in opening the combination lock of the Rubin safe. He took out the top drawer on the left-hand side and scrutinized it carefully. No one could have detected the secret slide, which was now replaced. Nevertheless, he found that, unless the drawer was handled with the utmost delicacy, the secret slide invariably jerked out, for the slightest jar released the controlling spring.

“The wonder is to me,” he muttered, “not that Daiches and me discovered it, but that Borrochson shouldn’t have found it out.”

He pondered over the situation for several minutes. If Rubin came in to buy the safe, he argued, the first thing he would do would be to look at the drawer, and in his feverish haste the slide would be bound to open. Once Rubin saw that the diamonds were missing the jig would be up and he, Wolfson, would be stuck with the safe. At length he slapped his thigh.

“I got it,” he said to himself. “I’ll shut the safe and lock it and claim I ain’t got the combination. Borrochson must have changed it when he bought it at Rubin’s bankruptcy sale, and so Rubin couldn’t open it without an expert, anyhow. And I wouldn’t bargain with Rubin, neither. He wants the safe for five hundred dollars; he shall have it.”

After emptying it of all its contents he closed and locked the safe and sat down to await developments. Four o’clock struck from the clock tower on Madison Square and Rubin had not arrived yet, so Wolfson lit a fresh cigar and beguiled his vigil with a paper he had found under the safe.

“I guess I’ll lock up and go to my dinner,” he said at eight o’clock. “To-morrow is another day, and if he don’t come to-day he’ll come to-morrow yet.”

Half an hour later he sat at a table in Glauber’s restaurant on Grand Street, consuming a dish of paprika schnitzel. At the side of his plate a cup of fragrant coffee steamed into his nostrils and he felt at peace with all the world. After the first cup he grew quite mollified toward Borrochson, and it was even in his heart to pity Rubin both for the loss he had sustained and the disappointment he was still to suffer. As for Daiches, he had completely passed out of Wolfson’s mind, but just as pride goeth before a fall, ease is often the immediate predecessor of discomfort.

Perhaps there is nothing more uncomfortable than to receive a glassful of cold water in the back of the neck, and although Wolfson’s neck bulged over his celluloid collar so that none of the icy fluid went down his back, the experience was far from agreeable. After the shock had spent itself he turned around to find J. Daiches struggling in the grasp of two husky waiters.

“Schwindler!” Daiches howled, as he was propelled violently toward the door. “For all what I have done for you, you give me a piece from glass.”

“Wait a bit!” Wolfson cried. “What is that he says about a piece from glass?”

But the waiters were too quick for him, and Daiches struck the car tracks and bounded east on Grand Street, toward his place of business, before Wolfson had an opportunity to question him.

Wolfson returned to his table without further appetite for his food. Hastily and with trembling fingers he took from his wallet a tissue-paper package wrapped after the fashion of a seidlitz powder. This he opened and exposed five glittering gems, but it seemed now to Wolfson that they possessed almost a spurious brilliancy. He glanced around nervously and at a table in the rear of the room he espied Sigmund Pollak, the pawnbroker, who could appraise a gem at a minute’s notice by virtue of his long experience with impecunious customers.

At a frenzied gesture from Wolfson, Pollak leisurely crossed the room.

“Hullo, Wolfson,” he said, “what’s the trouble now?”

“Nothing,” Wolfson replied, “only I want it you should do me a favour and look at these here diamonds.”

Pollak examined them carefully.

“How much did you give for ’em?” he asked.

“I didn’t give nothing for ’em,” Wolfson replied. “I found ’em in a safe what I bought it from a feller by the name Philip Borrochson, in the jewellery business.”

“Well,” Pollak replied slowly, “you ain’t made nothing by ’em and Borrochson ain’t lost nothing by ’em, because they ain’t worth nothing. They’re just paste. In fact, there’s a lot of that stuff around nowadays. A feller by the name Daiches showed me one of ’em about half an hour ago yet, and wants to sell it to me. I offered him a quarter for it.”

Pollak returned the paste gems to Wolfson, who tossed them into his trousers-pocket with a nonchalance engendered of many years’ poker playing.

“Have a little something to drink, Pollak?” he said.

“Thanks, I shouldn’t mind if I did,” Pollak replied. “By the way, ain’t that your friend Borrochson what is coming in now?”

Wolfson again turned around in his chair, and this time, despite his poker training, he was shaken out of all self-possession.

“Who’s this here tall, white-face feller what comes in with him?” he hissed.

“Him?” Pollak answered. “Why, that’s a great friend from Borrochson’s, a feller by the name Rubin what is one of the actors by the Yiddisher theayter.”

Wolfson faced about again and essayed to tackle his schnitzel.

“Say, Pollak,” he croaked, “d’ye want to buy a good safe cheap?”