The Emerald CrossChapter 9

Dublin Castle, 6th July 1907

The unlocked front door continued to puzzle Stivey. He couldn't help having an uneasy feeling that he had not heard the last of the matter. Because of this, he was more careful than usual to make sure everything was securely locked before he left Bedford Tower in the evening.

As the day of the Royal visit approached, Vicars found himself increasingly busy with preparations for the ceremony of investiture. One important meeting followed the next, with the result that he could not contrive to be alone in the Library, with a chance to take a look in the safe. He assumed, from the morning that he heard about the unlocked door, that Frank had managed to return the jewels that were a vitally important part of the King's regalia. He thought, though he could not be absolutely sure, that the spare keys to the safe, kept hidden in a drawer of his desk in his office in Bedford Tower, had been used. Though the keys were still in the drawer they were not exactly where he had put them.

All this time, Frank was waiting anxiously in his flat in Park Lane, hoping for the return of the jewels. On the fourth of July he was invited to lunch at Lady Ormonde's London residence. This was his last planned social engagement before returning to Ireland in time to give Vicars a hand with the last-minute preparations for the King's visit. But, when he left for the lunch, the jewels had not yet arrived. He gave instructions to his servant to say to anyone who called that he would be at home late in the evening. He decided he could put off his return no longer; if he did not have the jewels by tomorrow morning, he would return without them.

He found himself distracted by this problem of the jewels through lunch and during the conversation afterwards. Talk naturally turned to the Royal visit to Ireland and Frank enjoyed being in the position of the man in the know. Lady Ormonde knew most of the important people in Dublin and was eager for news and preferably, scandal.

"How do you get on with Sir Arthur?" she asked him, "A fussy, carping little man, I have always thought."

Frank loyally defended his mentor. "Oh, he's not so bad! He really knows an incredible amount about genealogy and heraldry. I admit he's a perfectionist and takes his work very seriously, but you can't say that's a bad thing."

"It's such a shame he never married."

"Yes, it would give him something to care about apart from his work and his collection of old books!"

"He offered to show me his Library at Bedford Tower last time I was in Dublin, but I must say I don't find old genealogy tomes very interesting! He is custodian of some of the Royal jewels though, is he not? The so-called Irish Crown Jewels?"

"Yes, the insignia of the Order of St Patrick. The King will wear them for the investiture of the new Knights of St Patrick. A very fine silver cross and badge, set with rubies, emeralds and some priceless Brazilian diamonds."

"Now I would love to see them! So much more exciting than old books. I expect they're much too valuable to take out and show to casual visitors."

"On the contrary! I am sure Sir Arthur would be delighted to show them to you." If he ever gets them back, Frank added silently to himself. He remembered the last letter he had written to Vicars, when he had first started to suspect the jewels might not be returned in time. "In fact, sometimes I feel that we should be more careful with them. Valuable jewellery is always such a temptation to robbers. I wouldn't be surprised if they were stolen from the Castle one night!"

Vicars couldn't bring himself to even consider the consequences of a failure to produce the jewels when required for the Royal visit. He still had not had a chance to be alone in the Library, to open the safe and check that Frank had indeed returned them to the safety of Dublin Castle. On the morning of the sixth of July, when he arrived at the Office of Arms, his nephew Pierce Mahoney, his secretary Sydney Horlock and Mary Gibbon, the efficient typist he employed, were all hard at work in the Library, dealing with those preparations for the King's visit that Vicars had felt able to delegate. Pierce had several questions for him and it was some time before he could escape to the peace of his own office. Before he could settle to any work, however, Stivey came in.

"Sir Arthur, I have to tell you something. When Mrs Farrell came in this morning, she found the strong room open!"

Vicars frowned. What could be the reason for this? It wasn't likely to be Frank this time, he knew as well as anyone that the jewels were kept in the safe, not in the strong room. At the moment he didn't have time for anything not connected with the return of the jewels or the King's imminent visit to Dublin.

"Don't bother me with that now, Stivey. I expect someone left it open last night. Very careless, whoever it was."

Stivey left the room, muttering about robbers, and how some people made things easy for them.

The time in which Vicars could postpone the opening of the safe in front of witnesses was coming to an end. A gold collar belonging to Lord De Ross had been delivered to the Office of Arms that morning. De Ross, recently dead, had been a knight of the Noble Order of St Patrick. This gold collar, of great intrinsic value and part of the insignia of a knight, had been returned in preparation for the investiture of the Lord who would fill the gap left by De Ross' death. The obvious thing to do with it in the meantime was to keep it safely locked up in the safe, along with five other knights' collars, already in there for the same purpose.

Once, twice, three times Vicars picked up the box containing the gold collar. He thought of the inquisitive young Mahoney and the officious Horlock, at work in the Library on the floor below. Impossible, if the worst had happened and Frank by some chance had failed to return the jewels, to conceal his shock and dismay from these two! Three times he put the box down again on his desk, postponing the dreaded moment.

Several times that morning Vicars cursed the patriotic impulse that had taken the jewels from his keeping. If only they had stayed where they belonged, safely under lock and key! But most likely he had nothing, really, to worry about; if he could only summon up his courage to open the safe and look inside, the jewels would be there, returned by Frank under cover of darkness. It was true, he had not seen Frank, but Frank when in Dublin was never regular in his attendance at the Office of Arms. He was no doubt enjoying the company of Captain Gorges in some tavern, forgetting his promise to help with getting ready for the investiture. The unlocked front door, the use of his hidden bunch of keys: what could these things mean except the return of the jewels?

His thoughts were interrupted for the second time that day by Stivey, coming in, no doubt, to bother him with some inconsequential matter that the man should have been able to settle for himself. Didn't people realise how extremely busy he was, so close to the Royal visit? Still, Stivey could perhaps be useful.

"Here, Stivey, I have a job for you. I haven't got a moment today, there are so many preparations yet to be made. It's a good thing the King doesn't come to Dublin too often! I've never been so busy in my life. Here, take this box and put it in the safe downstairs. I'll give you the key; take this bunch, it's this key here. Make sure you lock the safe properly after!"

As soon as Stivey had left the room, Vicars started to reconsider. It was not at all usual to trust an employee at Stivey's level with the key to the safe. He would find it difficult to justify, if asked, why he had done it. He found it hard to explain to himself when he was almost certain that the jewels had been replaced in the safe. It was not too late to go down to the Library and open the safe himself. He started down the stairs after Stivey, and met him coming out of the Library door.

"Sir Arthur! The safe! It wasn't locked , Sir!"

"What are you talking about, Stivey?"

"The safe, Sir! You must have forgotten to lock it!"

"What nonsense! Let me have a look." Taking the bunch of keys from Stivey's hand, Vicars strode up to the safe and opened the door. Holding his breath, he looked into the safe, then sighed with relief as he saw inside it the leather box which he had last seen when he gave it into Frank's hands on the morning of his departure for Italy. He noticed that Frank had carelessly left the little key to the box in the lock; usually it was kept hidden in another little box inside the safe. "I'll just look inside and make sure the regalia are in order," he said to Pierce Mahoney, who had crossed the room to see what was going on. He turned the key and opened the box, and stared in disbelief at its contents.

"They are not here! Where are they?" The shock was too much for Vicars. His mind could not seem to take it in. He kept looking into the box as if the jewels might suddenly reappear in their rightful place; as if their absence was merely the optical illusion of a stage magician. But the only thing to be seen lying on the velvet cushion was a piece of ribbon which had been attached to the jewelled badge, its midnight blue a foil for the bright diamonds.

"What has happened, Sir Arthur?" asked Sidney Horlock, "have the jewels been stolen?"

"Stolen! No! It's not possible!" Vicars said wildly, his mind still refusing to believe what his eyes could not fail to see.

Mahoney took a box from the safe and opened it. "This is empty. What should be in here, Sir Arthur?"

"A gold collar, like this one. My God, is that gone too? Has everything gone?"

Mahoney opened another box, also empty. "It looks like the thieves have taken everything."

"My mother's pearls!" Vicars grabbed a pale blue ladies' jewel case from the back of the safe. "I don't believe it. Stolen!" The jewel case was empty.

Pierce knew how much the loss of these pearls would sadden Vicars. They had been given to him by his mother on her deathbed, with her wish that he would give them to his wife when he married. As Vicars' mother was his grandmother, he had heard this story many times. The pearls had been her most valued jewels.

"We must send for the Police!" Pierce declared.

Vicars had to agree, and Stivey was sent with a message that there had been a robbery at the Office of Arms. Within a few minutes two officers of the Dublin Metropolitan Police were shown into the Library. Vicars of course could reveal nothing of his earlier hesitation in opening the safe, or the reason for his fear that the jewels might not be safely within. No; the King's business must be kept secret at all costs. He told the policemen simply that he had come to open the safe to put the gold collar inside and found it unlocked. Looking into the safe, he had discovered all the valuables to be missing, including some very valuable jewels belonging to the King, known as the "Irish Crown Jewels".

While the officers were questioning Vicars about security arrangements at the Castle, which to them seemed less than adequate for a repository of such valuable objects, a young man entered the room and dropped languidly into an armchair.

"I say, Arthur, it's good to be back in Dublin at last! The crossing was so stormy, I thought I was going to end up at the bottom of the Irish Sea! Sorry I couldn't get back earlier, I was held up in London." He seemed to realise for the first time that all was not as usual in the Office of Arms Library. " What are the Police doing here? What's going on, Arthur?"

"Who is this gentleman, Sir?" the senior police officer asked Vicars.

"This is Mr Francis Shackleton, the Dublin Herald and the brother of the famous explorer," Vicars replied. "Frank, I know this will be a terrible shock to you, but the Crown Jewels have been stolen!"

Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle