"I didn't notice it," I said, resignedly. "What was it?"
"That she was accustomed to opening the drawer with her left hand, instead of with her right. After that, there could be no further doubt. So I discovered the drawer very simply. It had to be there."
"Yes," I said; "and then?"
"Then I removed the jewels, took them down to a dealer in paste gems and duplicated them as closely as I could. I had a hard time getting a good copy of this big rose-diamond."
He picked it from the heap and held it up between his fingers.
"It's a beauty, isn't it?" he asked.
M. Pigot smiled a dry smile.
"It is the Mazarin," he said, "and is worth three million francs. There is a copy of it at the Louvre."
"So that's true, is it?" I asked. "Crochard told us the story."
"It is unquestionably true," said M. Pigot. "It is not a secret—it is merely something which every one has forgotten."
"Well," continued Godfrey, "after I got the duplicates, I rolled them up in the cotton packets, and placed them back in the drawer, being careful to put the Mazarin at the bottom, where I had found it."
"It was lucky you thought of that," I said, "or Crochard would have suspected something."
Godfrey looked at me with a smile.
"My dear Lester," he said, "he knew that the game was up the instant he opened the first packet. Do you suppose he would be deceived? Not by the best reproduction ever made!"
And then I remembered the slow flush which had crept into Crochard's cheeks as he opened that first packet!
"I didn't expect to deceive him," Godfrey explained. "I just wanted to give him a little surprise. And to think I wasn't there to see it!"
"But if he knew they were imitations," I protested, "why should he go to all that trouble to steal them?"
"That is what puzzled me last night," said Godfrey; "and, for that matter, it puzzles me yet."
"Maybe he's got the real stones, after all," suggested Grady, who had been listening to all this with incredulous countenance. "The story sounds fishy to me. Maybe these are the imitations."
M. Pigot came forward and picked up the Mazarin and looked at it.
"This one, at least, is real," he said, after a moment. "And I have no doubt the others are," he added, turning them over with his finger.
Grady, still incredulous, picked up one of the brilliants, went to the window, and drew it down the pane. It left a deep scratch behind it.
"Yes," he admitted reluctantly, "I guess they're diamonds, all right," and he sat down again.
"And now, gentlemen," continued Godfrey, who had watched Grady's byplay with a tolerant smile, "I am ready to turn these diamonds over to you. I should like you to count them, and give me a receipt for them."
"And then, of course, you will write the story," sneered Grady, "and give yourself all the credit."
"Well," asked Godfrey, looking at him, "do you think you deserve any?" And Grady could only crimson and keep silent. "As for the story, it is already written. It will be on the streets in ten minutes—and it will create a sensation. Please count the diamonds. You will find two hundred and ten of them."
"That is the exact number stolen from the Grand Duke," remarked M. Pigot, and fell to counting. The number was two hundred and ten.
"Mr. Shearrow has the receipt," Godfrey added, and Shearrow took a paper from his pocket, unfolded it, and read the contents.
It proved to be not only a receipt, but a full statement of the facts of the case, without omitting the details of the robbery and the credit due the Record for the recovery of the diamonds. Grady's face grew redder and redder as the reading proceeded.
"I won't sign no such testimonial as that," he blustered. "Not on your life I won't!"
"You will sign it, will you not, M. Pigot?" asked Godfrey.
"Certainly," said the Frenchman; "it is a recognition of your services very well deserved," and he stepped forward and signed it with a flourish.
"Now, Simmonds," said Godfrey.
"No you don't!" broke in Grady. "Stay where you are, Simmonds. I forbid you to sign that. Remember, I'm your superior officer."
"No, he's not, Simmonds," said Godfrey, quietly. "He hasn't been an officer at all for an hour and more."
Grady sprang to his feet, his eyes blazing, and strode toward Godfrey.
"What do you mean by that?" he shouted.
"I mean," said Godfrey, looking him squarely in the eye, "that Mr. Shearrow and myself had a talk with the mayor this morning, and laid before him certain evidence in our possession—this latest case among others—and that your resignation was accepted at noon to-day."
"My resignation!" snorted Grady. "I never wrote one!"
"Tell the public that, if you want to," retorted Godfrey coldly. "That's your affair. You ought to have 'phoned it in when I told you to. Now, Simmonds."
Grady stood glaring about him an instant, like an enraged bull, and I half expected him to hurl himself on Godfrey; instead, he crushed his hat upon his head, strode to the door, jerked it open, and banged it behind him.
"Now, Simmonds," Godfrey repeated, as the echo died away, and Simmonds came forward and signed. I witnessed the signatures, and Godfrey, with more eagerness than he had shown in the whole affair, caught up the paper and sprang with it to the door.
"Get that down to the office, as quick as you can," he said, to a man outside. "I'll 'phone instructions. That," he added, closing the door and turning back to us, "is my reward for all this—or, rather, the Record's reward. And now, gentlemen, Mr. Shearrow has his car below, and I think we would better drive around to some safe-deposit box with this plunder."
It was perhaps ten days afterwards that Godfrey dropped in to see me one evening. I was just back from a week on Cape Cod, which had done me a world of good; and, I need hardly say, was glad to see him.
"You're looking normal again," he said, surveying me, as he sat down. "I was worried about you for a while."
"I never felt better. I told you that all I needed was to have that mystery solved."
"And it was solved on schedule time, wasn't it," he smiled; "though not quite in the way I had anticipated. Do you know, Lester," he added, "I am going to claim that cabinet."
"On what grounds?" I demanded.
"Because the man who owned it gave it to me," and he got a paper out of his pocket-book and handed it across to me.
I opened it and recognised the delicate and feminine writing which I had seen once before.
"My dear sir [the letter ran]:
"I find that I made the mistake of underestimating you, and I present you my sincere apologies. I trust that, at some future time, it may be my privilege to be again engaged with you—the result is certain to be most interesting. But at present I find that I must return to Europe by La Bretagne; since, after the trouble I have taken, it is impossible that I should consent to part with the brilliants of His Highness the Grand Duke. As a slight souvenir of my high regard, I trust you will be willing to accept the cabinet Boule, which I am certain that good M. Lester will surrender to you if you will show to him this letter. The cabinet is not only interesting in itself, but will be doubly so to you because of the part it has played in our little comedy. And I should like to know that it adorns a corner of your home.
"Till we meet again, dear sir, believe me
"Your sincere admirer,
"He's a good sport, isn't he?" asked Godfrey, as I silently handed the letter back to him. "What do you say about the cabinet?"
"I suppose there is no doubt that Crochard bought it," I said.
"So that it is mine now?"
"Yes; but I'm going to solicit a bribe."
"Go ahead and solicit it."
"I want a souvenir, too," I said. "I'd like awfully well to have that letter—besides," I added, "it will be a kind of receipt, you know, if anybody ever questions my giving you the cabinet."
Godfrey laughed and threw the letter across the table to me.
"It's yours," he said. "And I'll send for the cabinet to-morrow. I suppose it is still at the station?"
"Yes; I haven't had time to put in a claim for it. But, Godfrey," I added, "when did La Bretagne sail?"
"A week ago to-day. She is due at Havre in the morning."
"Did you warn them?"
"Warn them of what?"
"That Crochard is after the diamonds. They went back on La Bretagne, I suppose?"
"Yes—and Pigot went with them. So why should I warn any one? Surely they know that Crochard will get those diamonds if he can. It has become a sort of point of honour with him, I imagine. It is up to them to take care of them."
"That oughtn't to be difficult," I said. "The strong-room of a liner is about the safest place on earth."
"Yes," Godfrey agreed, and blew a meditative ring toward the ceiling.
And presently he went away without saying anything more.
But the more I thought of it, the more the inflection he had given that word seemed an interrogation rather than an affirmation.
And when I opened my paper next morning, I more than half expected to be greeted with a black headline announcing the looting of the strong-room of La Bretagne. But there was no such headline, and with a sigh, half of relief and half of disappointment, I turned to the other news.
But two weeks later, a black headline did catch my eye:
MICHAELOVITCH JEWELS FALSE!
FRENCH DETECTIVE TAKES BACK PASTE IMITATIONS FROM AMERICA.
Fraud Discovered When the Grand Duke Michael Sends them to a Jeweller to be Reset.
I had no need to read the article which followed, for I saw in a flash what had occurred. I saw, too, why Crochard had retained the paste jewels—he had a use for them! How or where the substitution had been made, I could only guess; but one thing was certain: the two weeks which had elapsed before the theft was discovered had given him ample opportunity to dispose of his plunder. I felt sorry for the Grand Duke; sorrier still for that admirable M. Pigot; but, after all, one could not but admire the cleverness of the man who had despoiled them.
Who, I wondered, had bought the Mazarin? Surely there was a diamond most difficult to sell.
It could, of course, be cut up—- but that would be sacrilege!
That question was answered, before long, in an unexpected way—a way which filled many columns in the papers, which delighted the comedy-loving French, and which gave Crochard a unique advertisement. One morning, in the personal column of Le Matin, appeared a notice, of which this is the English:
"To M. the Director of the Museum of the Louvre:
"It has been my good fortune to come into possession of the rose-diamond known as the Mazarin. It is my wish to restore it to your collection, in order that it may no longer be necessary to delude the public with an imitation of coloured glass. It will give me great pleasure to present this brilliant to you, with my compliments, provided His Highness, the Grand Duke Michael, who preceded me in possession of the diamond, will join me in the gift. Should he refuse, it will be my melancholy duty to cleave the diamond into a number of smaller stones, as it is too large for my use. But I hope that he will not refuse.
What could the Grand Duke do? To have refused, would have made him the butt of the boulevards. Besides, he was, after all, losing nothing which he had not already lost. So, with a better grace than one might have expected, he consented to join in the restoration. Two days later, the director of the Louvre discovered a packet upon his desk. He opened it and found within the Mazarin. When you visit the Louvre, you will see it in the place of honour in the glass case in the centre of the Gallery of Apollo, with an attendant on guard beside it. But already the circumstances of its restoration are fading from the public memory.
And Crochard? I do not know. Each morning, I read first the news from Paris, searching for L'Invincible in some new incarnation. I have his letter framed and hanging above my desk, and every day I read it over. One sentence, especially, is forever running in my head:
"I trust that, at some future time, it may be my privilege to be again engaged with you—the result is certain to be most interesting."
And I trust that it may be my privilege, also, to be present at that engagement!