The Emerald CrossChapter 5

"I'm sorry, Arthur, but I need to spend some time in London this month. I've got to get more money out of my investors, I need it for the Mexican project. I'm putting in every penny of my own I can possibly spare. In fact, Arthur, I don't think I can go on putting up half the rent for this place. I'm not here for enough of the year to make it worthwhile."

"Well, if that's how you feel, I suppose it can't be helped. It will be awkward to have to move to a smaller place, though. I hope this Mexican thing works out, after all the money you've put into it!"

"It would help if you don't tell people I'm a bit short at the moment. For some reason, investors always like to give the stuff to a man who's already got plenty of his own."

"Frank, you know I never gossip about other people's affairs. Go to London by all means, but I will need you back in time for the King's visit next month."

"Of course. I expect I'll be back around the beginning of July. There'll be a lot to do, getting everything ready. I'm looking forward to it though, I don't mind hard work! And then, there's the chance to meet the King, and all the important people in his entourage. No, I wouldn't miss it for anything!"

Talking of the King's visit was an unpleasant reminder to Vicars that the investiture could not take place without the regalia of the Order of St Patrick. He would feel much happier when the jewelled cross and badge were safely back in his keeping. It was convenient that Frank was going to London; he certainly could not go himself, this close to the Royal visit. He would write to Hodgson at once and tell him it was imperative that he retrieve the jewels immediately and give them to Frank in London. Frank could bring them back to Dublin Castle before the ceremony.

A few days later Vicars was in the Library consulting one of his antique heraldic texts when William Stivey came in and announced that he had a visitor.

"Mr Hodgson is here to see you, Sir."

Hodgson! This was the last person Vicars had expected. "Show him in, please, Stivey, and make sure we are not disturbed."

"Good afternoon, Sir Arthur."

"Afternoon, Hodgson. It's good to see you. I take it you received my letter. I have been getting a little anxious, I must admit. It was good of you to come all this way yourself. Give me the jewels and I'll lock them up right away."

"But I have not got them with me! I understood from your letter that they were to be given to Shackleton in London."

"Yes, well, that's all right, if Frank Shackleton has them. When I saw you I assumed you had come here to return them to me yourself."

"No, I had business in Ireland and thought I would call on you. My agent is on his way back from Italy with the jewels and I have instructed him to give them to Shackleton. He should have them within three or four days."

"Excellent! That's a relief. It's less than a month now to the King's visit."

" I have an idea, Sir Arthur. To put off anyone who suspects the jewels were not here continuously, shall we say that you showed them to me on my visit here today? I have signed the visitor's book, you know, so there will be a record of my visit. I will have no problem describing the star and badge, I saw them when Shackleton brought them to Italy."

"Yes, a good idea, I think. Though there is no reason for anyone to be suspicious! As long as they are back in good time there will be no problem. Would you like some Earl Grey tea, Hodgson, or perhaps a glass of sherry?"

"Tea would be very welcome, thank you. By the way, how is Sydney Horlock doing? I hope he is proving to be an efficient secretary?"

"Yes, indeed, I can't thank you enough for recommending him. He has learned a great deal in the short time he's been here. I really don't know what I would do without him, particularly at this busy time."

Vicars would have been surprised and disapproving if he knew that Frank Shackleton was not, in fact, conducting his financial affairs in the City. Instead, he was at the races in Ascot in the company of Captain Richard Gorges.

"Come on, Frank, it's not like you to be mean. If I had more cash I would put a much larger bet on White Knight. From what I hear this horse improved his times amazingly since last year and the odds are twenty to one! You can't afford to miss out on this."

"I don't know why you think I've got money, Richard. As I keep telling you, I'm broke. I'm only here to keep up a pretence of not having a care in the world. If people see me out enjoying myself and spending my money they will never guess how desperate I am to get my hands on some of theirs. If I could only get hold of a thousand pounds right now, it would make all the difference."

"That's exactly why you should take my advice! If you could bet fifty pounds, you might have a thousand by the end of the day! Better still, make it a hundred, that will get you two thousand."

"I can't afford to lose even one hundred pounds!"

"Not so loud; do you want your friend Lord Gower to hear you? Here he comes now."

"Frank! It's good to see you here, I thought you were in Ireland."

"No, I had some business in London, and I thought as the races were on, I'd combine it with pleasure. Captain Gorges luckily was due for some leave from his regiment and could join me."

"Good afternoon, Captain Gorges. Good to meet you again."

"Good afternoon, Lord Gower. I was just giving Frank a tip for the Cup, we were deciding how much he should venture. Were you thinking of fifty pounds, Frank, or a hundred?" Richard pretended not to see the angry look Frank gave him.

"Oh, a hundred, I suppose, if it's as sure a thing as you say," Frank said in as careless a tone as he could, hoping to impress Lord Gower, who could certainly afford to invest some money in his scheme.

"Good! Come with me to the bookmakers, Frank, I want to place a little bet myself." Lord Gower led the way, unaware that behind him Richard was trying to stifle his laughter at the look on Frank's face.

"Hell! I wish I'd said fifty," Frank muttered.

"Never mind, think of the two thousand you could win! Be an optimist, man!"

As the time of the big race drew closer, Frank found it increasingly hard to maintain his appearance of nonchalance. There was the hope of the two thousand pounds which would completely solve his money problems. On the other hand he could ill afford to lose the hundred he had just bet. Everything depended, now, on how fast a four legged creature could run. Why had he not just firmly refused to bet? To keep up appearances for Lord Gower's benefit! He could hardly bear to watch as the horses lined up for the start of the race.

"Look! There goes White Knight, that magnificent grey. He looks in excellent form," commented Richard.

"There's Bachelor's Button who won last year. A fine horse," remarked Lord Gower.

The knuckles stood out on Frank's hands as he gripped the rail that surrounded the racecourse. The bang of the starting gun was succeeded by the raucous cheering of the crowd. In a confusion of bright colour the horses rushed past as swiftly as birds in flight. The crowd, shouting and waving their hats, blocked Frank's view of the finishing line.

"Who won? Did you see?" he asked, trying to sound as if it did not greatly matter.

Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle,