Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Jewel

Inigo arrives with all the extravagance we expected. He has a small army of people with him, but fortunately most of them wait outside the museum.
     The Director welcomes Inigo with a broad smile and undeniable hesitancy, which I am pleased to see. Caution will be necessary today.
     Inigo and his team are led into the museum and down to the basement level. Here we stop and the Director requests that only Inigo proceeds with our staff into the next part of the museum, usually reserved for employees and high level researchers only. Inigo is persuasive, however, and has paid a lot of money for this visit and so after some bargaining he is allowed to bring two of his posse along.
     Now we head in to the bowels of this ancient building and Inigo is taken to a room where we will bring what he has come to see.
     'Can I not see where you keep it?' he enquires.
     'We have hidden it away and very few people, even within this building, know its exact whereabouts,' replies the Director.
     'But why would you keep such a fabulous item in the dark, is there not a secure location in which it can be displayed?'
     'Indeed there is, but this is not something simply to be looked at or used for light entertainment, it is to be treasured, and so it is kept safe from all harm.'

At this point a curtain is drawn back revealing a small hole in the wall. The Director pushes a button beside the hole and a metal box appears from some mysterious location. The Director takes the box and places it on the table in the middle of the room. Carefully he lifts the lid and removes a smaller container, seemingly made entirely of glass. This he lays delicately in front of Inigo who has become silent, watching every move. Slowly he looks down into the glass cube. Suspended within it is a perfect jewel, fiery red and yet with a soft, golden flicker to it, almost like a star.
     Inigo stares at it for an age. Everyone is silent.
     'Amazing,' he remarks, eventually. Another pause follows, but then comes the question we had been expecting.
     'And how much is it worth?'

The Director glances at me and I nod. 'There is no price attached to it,' he says.
     Inigo is still gazing at the jewel. 'Well humour me,' he replies, 'what would you value it at. I'm the son of a billionaire. Big numbers neither surprise me nor terrify me.'
     'The problem is, you see,' says the Director, trying to keep his voice steady, 'that true value is determined not by an expert but by what someone has paid or is willing to pay, and no one has ever paid for this jewel, at least not with money.'
     'Well, as you may have guessed,' puts in Inigo, 'I am willing to change that, indeed I am willing to pay what I think it is worth for it.'
     'I'm afraid you don't understand,' says the Director, quickly, 'this jewel is not for sale. There is no price you could pay. It is truly priceless.'
     'But why would you not accept payment for something you keep but nobody sees?' Inigo seems genuinely puzzled.
     Again the Director looks at me, again I nod. 'Because it has been placed in our care and the instructions we were given is that it will never leave. If you really want to know what it cost to bring it here, I will tell you.'
     Inigo says nothing, but concentrates fully on the Director, who takes a breath and continues, 'the man who brought this jewel here paid for it with his life. This is the only value that can be attached to it.'

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