"An Indifference Closely Bordering On Aversion"
Context: There was a wave of interest in things Oriental during the Victorian era, and Stevenson's New Arabian Nights probably reflects this. In this book he turns London into a place of fantasy and mystery, where happenings have the strangeness and vivid illogicality of dreams. "The Rajah's Diamond" is a tale, or series of episodes, following a similar sequence entitled "The Suicide Club"; the Bohemian Prince Florizel, a sort of genie-figure, moves through both. The individual episodes are connected by Stevenson's editorial comments, in which he summarizes whimsically the transitions employed by his "Arabian author." The stories are in a sense modern fairy tales. "The Rajah's Diamond" follows the adventures of a fabulous and unlucky gem from one owner to the next, until finally Prince Florizel acts the good angel and disposes of it forever. It had been obtained by foul means and at the cost of many lives by General Vandeleur when he was in India; he has a fortune in diamonds, but his wife bankrupts him and steals the stones, entrusting them to her manservant. He is to convey them to the general's brother, a connoisseur and collector who is also an accomplished jewel thief. The servant is separated from this fortune by a series of misadventures, and the Rajah's diamond gets into the hands of a clergyman, who immediately falls from grace and joins the underworld in an effort to "fence" the stone. He meets with the general's brother, John, who robs him of it; John's daughter subsequently passes it on to young Francis Scymgeour, who has fallen in love with her. Francis has been given an anonymous but generous monthly allowance, presumably from his unknown father; learning part of the plot, he spies on John and his daughter. From a house next door he sees John drug the clergyman. He has deduced that John is actually his own father and is in some sort of trouble, so he rushes to offer his assistance and reveals himself just as John lifts the diamond from his victim's pocket. His reaction to Francis is anything but cordial:
Then a light seemed to break upon Mr. Vandeleur, and he laughed aloud."I see," cried he. "It is the Scrymgeour. Very well, Mr. Scrymgeour. Let me tell you in a few words how you stand. You have entered my private residence by force, or perhaps by fraud, but certainly with no encouragement from me; and you come at a moment of some annoyance, a guest having fainted at my table, to besiege me with your protestations. You are no son of mine. You are my brother's bastard by a fishwife, if you want to know. I regard you with an indifference closely bordering on aversion; and from what I now see of your conduct, I judge your mind to be exactly suitable to your exterior. . . ."