by M. E. Layton
“Yes, but I require the Afghan green Tourmalines, you see. That particular shade, with just the slightest touch of blue, match Milady's eyes perfectly. I'm afraid no other stone will do.”
“Ah,” the jeweller smiled, “I understand, Sir Willoughby.” The Afghan Tourmalines would fetch almost as much as the equivalent number of emeralds. He winked as he turned to the locked cabinets behind the counter. “I do think I can accommodate...” He slid first one shelf out, then another, finally retrieving a tray of the bluish-green gemstones. “These should be just the thing!” He settled the tray on the counter with a flourish.
"Perfection,” Sir Willoughby sighed. He pointed to the largest of the stones. “I think this should be the centrepiece. And....this one...this...” He chose the accompanying stones with care. “Now, you will fashion the choker per specifications, to be collected on Tuesday fortnight?”
“Of course, Sir Willoughby,” the jeweller slipped the stones and the sketch of the choker design into a velvet bag. “It shall be as you require.”
Sir Willoughby donned his hat, collected his walking stick, and strolled out into the rare spring sun. With luck, he'd make it home before the next rain shower began.
The park was heaving with lords and ladies taking a turn in the pleasant weather, and his hand rarely left his hat, stuck as it was in a continual state of doffing.
On the Monday before he was to collect the Tourmaline choker, he consulted with his housekeeper on the menu for the birthday celebration.
“Cook is preparing the crème brulee now,” Mrs Higgins said, “and I've sent a boy to collect the finest tuna steaks from the butchers.”
“Excellent!” Sir Willoughby clapped his hands together. “What would we do without you Mrs Higgins?” The housekeeper blushed, and waved him off.
On Tuesday, Sir Willoughby arrived at the jeweller's promptly at 2 p.m. The jeweller escorted him into a private room and left to retrieve the choker. He returned with a highly polished wooden box and placed it, with due ceremony, on the table before Sir Willoughby.
Sir Willoughby removed first one white glove, and then the other and ran his hands reverently over the lid of the box. He gently lifted the lid and gasped at the sight before him. The choker was even more lovely than he had anticipated. He carefully lifted it and held it to the light. Flashes of blue-green sparkle fired through the gemstones as the light played upon the facets. Diamonds accented the arrangement of the Tourmalines and added even more sparkle to the finished piece.
“You have outdone yourself, sir!” Sir Willoughby placed the choker back on the velvet lining as the jeweller preened. He reached for his wallet and retrieved a wad of folded bills. These he passed to the jeweller as he slid the box containing his treasure into his coat pocket. “The amount we agreed upon,” he said, “and a little extra for your impeccable craftsmanship.”
“Sir Willoughby, you shouldn't have,” the jeweller pocketed the money without counting it, as that would have been rude. “It is always a pleasure, I assure you.”
The persistent London rain could not dampen Sir Willoughby's spirits as he made his way home. His jaunty step caught the eye of others as he wound through the huddles of humanity on the pavement. Most shook their heads and carried on, while others caught Sir Willoughby's good mood and found themselves smiling despite the poor weather.
Sir Willoughby paused under the eave to close his umbrella and tap it on the stoop to dislodge drops of rain before entering the foyer and divesting himself of his outerwear.
“Darling, I'm home!” He peered into the parlour. “Ah, there you are, my love!” He walked to where she sat by the window, and placed the box on the side table, lifting its lid and turning it to face her. She stood and sauntered into his waiting embrace. “Happy birthday, darling. I hope you like your gift. Allow me.” He disentangled himself and lifted the choker, placing it around her neck. “There. How do you like it?”
She peered at him, and he was pleased to see he'd chosen well; the stones reflected the colour of her eyes perfectly. She sat down again. “Mrrrroww,” she purred, and Sir Willoughby sighed with relief.
“Yes, it suits you, darling.” He scooped her up and sat, and she settled into his lap and stretched, and closed her eyes to continue her nap.