“When were you there the next time?”
“About half-past two, when Mr. Roe ’phoned me to come to his room, and I again opened the vault, that the teller might get some money to cash the large draft of one hundred and thirty-eight thousand pounds.”
Much discussion followed this informal catechising, but the only thing evident was that the package was lost. How it had disappeared, or where it was, none could so much as guess. Here were twenty men—thorough business men—several of whom had had large and successful banking experience, among them a cashier than whom there was no brighter financier in the great city of London, and the chief of a peerless detective force, with two of his shrewdest colleagues. All were nonplussed, annoyed, humiliated, returning to their homes and leaving the great building in charge of half a score of sturdy watchmen, safer, it would seem, in the night than in the day.
Next day several city newspapers had the following:
“A reward of ten thousand pounds will be paid for the arrest of the party or parties who abstracted a valuable package of Bank of England notes April 11, 18—, from said bank. This currency can be of no value to the thieves, as the bank holds a list of the numbers, and their circulation has been ordered stopped. The receiver of any of these notes will be liable to arrest.”
Nearly every important newspaper in the kingdom copied this item. Besides this, a list of the numbers of the lost notes was sent to every banking institution in England and America.
Billy Sparrow stood leaning against the gate post, looking down upon the river three hundred yards away. He and his two helpers had been cultivating corn and tobacco through a long June day; and now the sun was going down, and he was making his plans for tomorrow’s work. Billy had just closed his fourth year as master of Monastery Farm. Billy was an Englishman from Durham County, having attended school in Barnard’s Castle three years, with an additional two and a half years spent at the agricultural college in Darlington. He then married the girl of his choice and for four years superintended his father’s farm; then, with their one child, three years old, set sail for America to seek his fortune, and four weeks later landed in New York.
Billy had letters of recommendation from the Wesleyan minister, Dr. Walsh, his father’s physician, and old Squire Horner. But in vain did Billy present these credentials as he tramped the streets—nobody seemed to need his services in a city containing millions of people. Billy’s capital was getting low and he was becoming discouraged. From one of those profitless tramps he was returning one evening when he observed the word “parsonage” on a door plate. He had always had a friend in a preacher in his native town; why not make the acquaintance of this one? Perhaps he might tell him of some sort of employment. Without stopping to think further he pulled the bell. In a moment or two he found himself in the presence of a young man, one but little older than himself, and the stranger was invited inside, feeling very much at home with the preacher.