Policeman Robert Taft was standing in Main Street outside Wilson’s shop. He was watching the cars on the road. A big black car stopped near him, and a small man got out.
Inside the shop old Tom Wilson was looking at some gold ear-rings, but he looked up and took off his glasses when he saw the car. He watched the man who got out; he was wearing a good suit and he looked rich. He came into the shop, and Wilson went to meet him.
“What can I do for you, sir?” he asked.
“You have a rather beautiful ring in the window,” said the man in a quiet voice. “I mean the ring with a blue diamond in it. I saw it in the window yesterday. May I look at it, please?”
“Certainly, sir. It’s a fine diamond, isn’t it?
“Yes. How much is the ring?”
“A thousand pounds,” said Wilson. He turned his head. “Goole,” he said, “get that blue diamond ring out of the window for this gentleman’.
A young man with black hair went to the window. He was wearing a suit which was too big for him.
“Yes, a thousand pounds,” said Wilson again. “It’s a lot of money, but there aren’t many rings like that.”
Goole brought the ring and put it into the rich man’s hands. The rich man looked at it for a short time, and then he walked to the door of the shop and looked at the ring in the daylight.
“This isn’t a diamond, is it?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” said Wilson.
“Well, look at it,” said the rich man. “It’s a piece of glass.”
Wilson took the ring from him and looked at it closely. His face was white when he spoke again.
“You’re quite right, sir,” he said quietly. “This isn’t the diamond. Someone has stolen the diamond ring, and put this in its place. A thousand pounds! A thousand pounds!” The old man sat down.
“I’m very sorry,” said the rich man, “but I can’t help you, can I?”
“No, sir, no.”
“Then I must go,” he said. “I wanted to buy that ring for my wife, but of course she doesn’t want a piece of glass.”
“Of course she doesn’t, sir.”
“Well, good morning,” said the rich man.
He went out of the shop, got into the car, and was driven away at once.
Taft was still standing outside the shop, and Wilson made a sign to him through the window. The policeman came in.
“What’s the matter, Mr. Wilson?” he asked.
Wilson told him. “Someone has changed the ring,” he said. “This ring has a piece of glass in it, not a diamond.”
“Who was that man who came in just now?” said Taft.
“I don’t know, but he seemed to be rich.”
“Did he look at the ring?” asked Taft.
“Oh, yes,” said Wilson.
“Did you watch the ring all the time, sir?”
“Well, no, I didn’t. The man walked to the door and looked at the ring in the daylight.”
“So his back was turned to you for a short time.”
“Yes,” said Wilson.
“Where’s your telephone, sir?”
Wilson took him to a small office at the back of the shop, and Taft telephoned to Cowley at police-station. He told the story in a few words.
“We ought to stop that car, sir,” said Taft.
“You’re quite right,” said Cowley. “Did you see its number?”
“Yes, sir. I was standing outside the shop at this time, and I noticed the number because it was rather unusual. It was ZZZ9999.”
“Good man,” said Cowley. “Stay there and don’t let anyone leave the shop. I’ll come in a few minutes. I’ll just tell someone here to telephone about that car. We’ll find it in an hour or two. Wait for me.”
In about twenty minutes Cowley reached Wilson’s shop in a polis car.
“Good morning, Mr. Wilson,” he said. “I’m sorry to hear your bad news. But We’ll catch that man; you may be sure of that. We’ve telephoned to all the police-station near here, and the police are watching the roads now. He won’t be able to go very far; they’ll find him and bring him back to my office. Now where can we talk?”
Wilson took Cowley and Taft into the little room at the back of the shop. They sat down, and a woman brought a cup of tea into the room.
“Will you have some tea?” asked Wilson.
Taft looked up hopefully, but Cowley said:
“No, thank you, Mr. Wilson. We can work better without it.”
“Well, I’ll have some,” said Wilson. “We always have some tea at eleven o’clock. Miss Hunter likes her tea, and I need some this morning more than usual.”
The woman left the cup in front of him and went out.
“Is that Miss Hunter?” asked Cowley.
“Yes,” said Wilson. “She helps me in the shop.”
“I see. Now let us talk about this man who came here. Taft says that he turned his back to you for a minute.”
“Yes, he did. But he was a rich man, and rich man don’t need to steal.”
“A lot of thieves are rich,” said Cowley. “But perhaps he isn’t rich. Perhaps he put on some good clothes just to come here.”
“But he had a big car,” said Wilson.
“Anyone can get a car for one day for about a bound.”
Wilson put his head into his hands. ” This kind of thing has never happened to me before,” he said sadly.
“Oh, we’ll find that man very soon,” said Cowley.
“We know the number of his car. It all seems quite clear. Why did he take the ring to the door and turned his back to you? To change it! How long has the ring been in your window?”
“About three weeks.”
“Where did you get the diamond?”
“In London. I bought it there a month ago. Then I bought it here and we set it in the ring. When it was finished, I put it in the window. It was the best thing in my shop.”
“So anyone could see it,” said Cowley. “Someone could easily look at it and then go away and make the ring like it with a piece of glass instead of a diamond.”
“Yes, that,s true.” said the old man.
“This man,” said Cowley, “made a ring like came here this morning, changed the two rings when he was standing by your door, and then gave you the wrong ring.”
“We’re not sure,” said Wilson.
“No, we’re not sure. Did anyone else come into the shop this morning?”
“Nobody at all.”
“When did you see the diamond for the last time?”
“Yesterday evening,” said Wilson. “I showed it to a woman in a green dress. She looked at it, but she didn’t buy it, and I put it away for the night.”
“Was it the diamond? Are you sure?”
“Oh, yes. I’m quite certain about that.”
“Then the ring was changed during the night or the morning.”
“It wasn’t changed during the night. Nobody can steal any of my things during the night. They’re quite safe. No. It was stolen to-day.”
“Well, nobody came into the shop to-day except that man; so he stole it, or someone in your shop stole it. Who are the people that help you in the shop?”
“Miss Hunter and that young man, Goole.”
“What do you know about them?”
“Miss Hunter has been with me for twenty years. She’s a good worker. She has small fingers, and she can use them well. Goole came to work here for the first time about three months ago. He’s also a good worker, but his clothes aren’t very nice. He helps his old father, I believe. He hasn’t got a lot of money.”
“Perhaps one of them changed the ring,” said Cowley.
“Oh, I don’t think so. I can’t believe that.”
“Tell me their addresses,” said Cowley.
“Goole lives at 522 Baker Street; Miss Hunter lives at 714 Vine Street.”
Cowley wrote the addresses in his book. “Could they make a ring like that?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. They helped me to make the diamond ring, and they could easily make another with a piece of glass.”
“Did Miss Hunter or Goole go out of the shop to-day before Taft came in?”
“Well, then, they didn’t take the ring out. So it’s in the shop, or that man took it.”
“We must look for it in the shop, Mr. Wilson. Taft and I will look everywhere, and we’ll just ask a few questions. Will you ask Miss Hunter to come in here? Don’t let Goole leave the shop for any reason.”
Miss Hunter looked tired when she came in. She was a small woman with fair hair. She was not very pretty, and she was no longer young.
“Can you tell me anything about this, Miss Hunter?” Cowley asked. “Do you know the name of the man who came here this morning?”
“No,” she answered. “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
“Who put that ring in the window this morning?”
“Mr. Goole and I put everything there. We worked together.”
“Did you both touch the ring?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Did you notice it, Miss Hunter? Was it the diamond or was it the piece of glass?”
“I didn’t notice it,” she said. “We always put everything in the window in the morning, and we don’t always look carefully at the things. We haven’t much time.”
“Did you watch this visitor when he was here?”
“No. I was working in that room at the side there.”
“Well, we’re going to look everywhere in the shop for the ring. We shall look in Mr. Goole’s clothes, but we don’t need to look in yours.”
“Oh, but you must,” she said. “If you don’t find the ring, and if you don’t look in my clothes and my bag, what will you think?”
“Very well,” said Cowley. He telephoned to the police-station and asked Miss Ablegood to come to the shop at once. Miss Ablegood was a policewoman.
Cowley then talked to Goole, but the man could tell him nothing more. Cowley looked at him thought-fully: he was clearly rather a poor man, and perhaps he needed money.
“We’re going to look for the ring here,” said Cowley.
“Everywhere in the shop! What about your clothes?”
Goole began to take his coat off. Taft shut the door, and the two men looked in every part of Goole’s clothes, but there was no diamond in them.
When Miss Ablegood came, she went into the room with Miss Hunter; but she came out without the diamond.
“Nothing!” said Miss Ablegood, and went away.
Miss Hunter and Goole then waited in the office. Cowley and Taft looked everywhere in the shop, but they did not find the ring anywhere. At the end of an hour they were rather tired.
“It’s not here,” said Cowley, “If it isn’t in the shop, it has left the shop. Who took it away? Miss Hunter and Goole never went out this morning, and so they didn’t take it. Only that rich man could take it, and we’ll soon catch him. Just wait, Mr. Wilson. We’ll find it for you.”
Just then they heard the telephone. A man at the police-station wanted to speak to Cowley.
“Can you come here at once, sir?” he said. “We’ve got a man here, and he’s not at all pleased with us. He’s the man in the car, sir, and he wants to go to London at once.”
“Good!” said Cowley. “Keep him there. Don’t let him go. I’ll be with you in ten minutes.”
He put the telephone down and turned to Wilson.
“We’ve caught the man,” he said. “I’ll come back here with the diamond very soon.”
Cowley walked into the police-station and went to his office. A policeman put his head round the door.
“They’ve found the man in the car, sir,” he said.
“Yes, I know. Where was he found?”
“The car was going to London, sir. The police stopped it at Langley. One of the policemen got in and made it come back here. The owner’s not very pleased, sir.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Cowley. “Bring the gentleman in.”
When the door opened again, Cowley saw a rather small man who was wearing a very good suit.
“Why have you brought me back here?” said the man angrily. “All the way from Langley! I’m a busy man. What’s the matter?”
“Sit down, sir,” said Cowley gently. “I just want to ask you a few questions about a ring.”
“Do you know my name?” said the man very quietly.
“No, sir; but I want to know it. What is your name?”
“I’m Henry Finlay. I’m the Governor of the Bank of England!”
“Oh, yes,” Cowley answered without surprise. “If you’re the Governor of the Bank of England, my name’s Napoleon.”
“But I am the Governor of the Bank of England! You must let me go at once.”
“Yes, yes,” said Cowley. “I’ve heard that kind of story before. Anybody can say that.”
“If you don’t believe me, ask the driver of my car. He’s waiting in that room out there.”
“Your driver is, perhaps, a friend who will say anything to help you.”
“Then telephone to the Bank in London,” said the man.
“I’m quite ready to do that,” said Cowley quietly.
But he was beginning to wonder. Was this man Henry Finlay? Was it possible?
He put the telephone to his mouth, but his eyes were fixed on the man in front of him.
“I want to speak to the Bank of England,” he said, and put the telephone down.
The two men waited. Cowley began to play with a pencil on his table, and he looked at the wall above the man’s head. The sound of the telephone made them both jump.
“Is that the Bank of England?” asked Cowley.
“Yes,” said a voice far away.
“I want to speak to the Governor. This is the police”
“You can’t speak to him. He’s not here.”
“Where is he?” asked Cowley.
“I can’t tell you that,” said the voice.
“Listen,” said Cowley. “This is the Lifton police. I’ve got a man here who calls himself the Governor of the Bank of England. I don’t believe him. Am I right or is he right?”
There was no answer for a short time, and then the voice said, “The Governor has a long red mark on the little finger of his left hand. He cut it badly last week. If your man has that mark on his finger, he’s the Governor.”
“Thank you,” said Cowley, and put the telephone down.
He turned to the man in the chair. “May I look at your left hand, sir?” he asked.
The man showed it to him. On the side of the little finger there was a long red mark.
In later days Cowley never liked to hear the name of the Bank of England. It made him remember that day in his office.
After Finlay went away, Cowley sat back in his chair. “Very, very bad!” he thought. “I stopped the Governor of the Bank on the roads! I must be more careful; much more careful!”
He telephoned to Wilson and told him the news.
“The Governor didn’t take the diamond,” said Cowley, “and so it never left your shop.”
“Well,” said Wilson, “it certainly wasn’t in the shop, was it? You looked everywhere. Where is it?”
“We’ll find it for you some day, Mr. Wilson. Don’t lose hope.”
Cowley called Taft into the office. The policeman was looking very pleased with life, when he came in.
“What are you laughing at?” said Cowley.
“Well, sir, not many people have stopped the Governor of the Bank of England in his big car!”
“That’s quite enough of that,” said Cowley. “He didn’t steal anything. Where’s that ring?”
“Goole has it, or Miss Hunter.”
“Then where was it this morning when we looked for it in the shop? It wasn’t in their clothes, and it wasn’t anywhere in the shop. Did the ring walk out of the shop itself?”
“I don’t know, sir. It’s very strange.”
“We must watch those two,” said Cowley. “Perhaps one of them has it, but I can’t understand it at all. How did it leave the shop? That’s the question. When you’re in the town during the next few days, spend a lot of time near that shop. You may see something.”
A short time after Taft left the office, Wilson again spoke to Cowley on the telephone.
“I’ve got a little news for you,” he said. “Goole wants to go away for a few days. His father’s ill, and he wants to visit him.”
“That’s interesting,” said Cowley. “Where does his father live?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t ask him. I’m interested in his journey, but I don’t want him to know it. Perhaps he isn’t going to see his father at all. Perhaps he has the diamond and he’s going to take it somewhere and sell it. Не can’t sell it in a shop, because it’s too big and everyone will notice it. So he’ll cut it into smaller pieces or sell it to another thief. I’ll send a man to follow him when he goes away. We may learn something useful, but don’t say a word to him about this. Just let him go.”
Cowley called Harrison into his office.
“Goole’s going away,” he said. “He has never seen your face, has he, Harrison? I want you to follow him. He lives at 522 Baker Street, and he may go by train. He may have that stolen diamond with him. Follow him and watch him.”
“Yes, sir,” said Harrison.
“Go and watch his house now. He may leave at any time. And change your clothes. Put a suit on.”
“Yes, sir,” said Harrison and went out.
Cowley looked at the door when it closed behind the policeman.
“Goole may have that ring,” he thought, “but how did he get it out of the shop?”