“‘See here,’ he said, pointing to one of the notes, ’the shape of that “w” in the signature of the chief cashier. I am not an English police officer, but I could pick out that spurious “w” among a thousand genuine ones. You see, I have seen a good many.’
“Now, of course, poor young Schwarz had not seen very many Bank of England notes. He could not have told whether one ‘w’ in Mr. Bowen’s signature is better than another, but, though he did not speak English nearly as fluently as his pompous interlocutor, he understood every word of the appalling statement the latter had just made.
“‘Then that Prince,’ he said, ‘at the hotel—’
“‘Is no more Prince than you and I, my dear sir,’ concluded the gentleman of His Imperial Majesty’s police calmly.
“‘And the jewels? Mr. Winslow’s jewels?’
“’With the jewels there may be a chance—oh! a mere chance. These forged bank-notes, which you accepted so trustingly, may prove the means of recovering your property.’
“’The penalty of forging and circulating spurious bank-notes is very heavy. You know that. The fear of seven years’ penal servitude will act as a wonderful sedative upon the—er—Prince’s joyful mood. He will give up the jewels to me all right enough, never you fear. He knows,’ added the Russian officer grimly, ’that there are plenty of old scores to settle up, without the additional one of forged bank-notes. Our interests, you see, are identical. May I rely on your co-operation?’
“‘Oh, I will do as you wish,’ said the delighted young German. ’Mr. Winslow and Mr. Vassall, they trusted me, and I have been such a fool. I hope it is not too late.’
“‘I think not,’ said M. Burgreneff, his hand already on the door of the cab. ’Though I have been talking to you I have kept an eye on the hotel, and our friend the Prince has not yet gone out. We are accustomed, you know, to have eyes everywhere, we of the Russian secret police. I don’t think that I will ask you to be present at the confrontation. Perhaps you will wait for me in the cab. There is a nasty fog outside, and you will be more private. Will you give me those beautiful bank-notes? Thank you! Don’t be anxious. I won’t be long.’
“He lifted his hat, and slipped the notes into the inner pocket of his magnificent fur coat. As he did so, Mr. Schwarz caught sight of a rich uniform and a wide sash, which no doubt was destined to carry additional moral weight with the clever rogue upstairs.
“Then His Imperial Majesty’s police officer stepped quickly out of the cab, and Mr. Schwarz was left alone.”
A CUNNING RASCAL
“Yes, left severely alone,” continued the man in the corner with a sarcastic chuckle. “So severely alone, in fact, that one quarter of an hour after another passed by and still the magnificent police officer in the gorgeous uniform did not return. Then, when it was too late, Schwarz cursed himself once again for the double-dyed idiot that he was. He had been only too ready to believe that Prince Semionicz was a liar and a rogue, and under these unjust suspicions he had fallen an all too easy prey to one of the most cunning rascals he had ever come across.