Theodore Luxton-Joyce as eccentric as ever jumped into his car, despite the heavy Christmas snow making most roads impassable, and sped towards St Vincent Church.
Half an hour later he was in Father Ignatius’ office, having barged through Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper who opened the front door, mumbling about some emergency or other.
“Padre … we have a problem …” he exclaimed to the astounded priest sitting behind the desk, “I tried to phone you this morning but you were permanently engaged … I thought you were probably hearing some late Confessions from sinners who couldn’t make it to church because of the snow … anyway … here I am. Got in the car and came over as quick as I could!”
“Sit down … take a deep breath … What is the problem?” asked Father Ignatius fearing the worst.
“I was in the library this morning … You know, the room annexed to the dining room where we had the old folk’s Christmas Dinner last night?”
The priest nodded.
“Well … just by the section where we have the books of Sir Walter Scott. You must have read him Padre! Scottish novelist, playwright and poet … you know … Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Heart of Midlothian and so on …
“Anyway … just by those books I found this beautiful gold necklace on the floor … what?
“Looks pretty expensive to me … must belong to one of the old ladies you invited to our Christmas party … must have dropped it when they all went to the library for a spot of Darjeeling. The poor lady, whoever she is, must be beside herself having lost such a valuable piece … I’d say!”
Father Ignatius took the necklace from Theodore and said, “I’ll keep it in case someone phones and asks for it!”
“I’ll hear none of it …” interrupted Theodore, “the poor lady who lost it must be looking everywhere for it … under her bed … or behind the piano … or wherever old ladies hide their jewelry … We must get in touch with them all and ask them if they’ve lost this necklace!”
Father Ignatius looked up in disbelief. “There were about fifty old people there … most of them women … you’re not suggesting …”
Theodore was suggesting just that! And for the next hour or so they phoned most of the old ladies to find the owner of the necklace; with no success.
“Well that’s all of them … except these six who are not on the phone,” remarked the priest, “I’ll ask them when I next see them at Mass on Sunday!”
But Theodore’s concern would have none of it.
“I have the car out there …” he said, “why don’t we visit them right now? I also have a bottle of brandy in the car to keep us warm … always prepared what?”
Father Ignatius said a silent prayer in his mind seeking forgiveness for what he thought about Theodore right now. Then as a self-imposed penance he decided to accompany the eccentric millionaire on what would no doubt turn out to be a wild goose chase.
And a waste of time it certainly was. At every house Theodore insisted on accepting the invitation for tea and biscuits, or mince pies, or home made cake or whatever other delicacy the old ladies had prepared for Christmas. And at every house he regaled them all with stories about Sir Walter Scott and other Scottish writers and famous people, not forgetting to mention time and again his Highlands lineage and the fact that he could play Chopin’s piano concerto on the bagpipes!
“Where does he put all this tea?” thought the weary priest to himself, “and he hasn’t been to the toilet once!”
Eventually they returned to Father Ignatius’ office at the Parish House both very cold, dejected and exhausted.
“You don’t think we can have a drop of tea to keep us warm?” asked Theodore to Mrs Davenport as she came in to collect the empty cups from this morning.
Father Ignatius held the gold necklace in his hand and admired it pensively.
“You don’t think it belongs to one of the nuns who came to the party?” asked Theodore rather stupidly, “do nuns wear necklaces under their habits Padre?”
The priest smiled and shook his head. “It’s a beautiful necklace with a lovely little rose here in the middle …” he said, “You don’t suppose it belongs to your wife … Rose?”
“Dash it all …” cried out Theodore standing up from his seat, “I forgot all about Rose!
“That little flower on the necklace should have reminded me …
“I bought that necklace six months ago for Rose’s birthday in January … I hid it in Sir Walter Scott’s book Rob Roy, which I was reading at the time … I thought no one would find it there … no one ever reads the books in that library … what? The necklace must have fallen out yesterday when someone picked up the books.
“I’d forgotten all about it … and for the past three weeks I’ve been wondering what to buy Rose for her birthday next month … I got her a bracelet … I know that for sure … the thing is I don’t know where I’ve hidden it …old boy!”
Father Ignatius sought forgiveness from the Lord once again for what was going through his mind.
He gave the necklace back to Theodore and followed his enthusiastic rush to the car and waived him goodbye as he sped back to his mansion on the hill.