“The poor chap has been tracked and arrested,” he thought; “possibly for some past burglary. Our negotiations are ended for the present, confound the luck! But the papers! By Jove, suppose Hawker had them on his person! If so, they will be found when he is searched. They will be opened and examined, and the whole truth will come out. I can’t be sure that Hawker won’t give away my part in the affair. I shall be ruined—nothing short of it! What a luckless devil I am!”
The iron hand of Nemesis seemed reaching out to grasp Nevill, and he shuddered as he realized his danger. The rustle of the bank notes in his breast pocket afforded him a momentary relief as he remembered that they would give him a fresh start in case he had to flee from England. Then a sudden thought lightened the gloom still more, and he clutched eagerly at the ray of hope thus thrown out.
“Hawker was too shrewd a man to be caught unawares,” he reasoned. “He kept the papers in a secure hiding-place, and he certainly would not have taken them from it until I came and he saw the color of the money. Nor is it likely that the police found them, though they must have searched the place. If they are still in the room, why should I not try to get possession of them? I could square up with Hawker afterward, when he recovers his liberty. By Jove, it’s worth risking!”
Nevill walked as far as Peckwater street, debating the question. He did not hesitate long, for there was too much at stake. He quickly made up his mind, and retraced his steps to the dingy house from which the detectives had taken their prisoner. He had planned his course of procedure when the door opened to his knock, and Mrs. Miggs revealed her distrustful countenance. Nevill tendered her half a sovereign on the spot, and asked to see the room lately occupied by Mr. Noah Hawker.
“It’s a private matter,” he explained. “Yes, I know that Mr. Hawker has just been arrested and taken away. District detectives did that—they were onto him for some breach of the law. I was after him myself, with a Scotland Yard warrant, but I arrived too late, unfortunately.”
“Then what do you want?” grumbled the woman.
“I want to search Hawker’s room for some papers which I believe he hid there. If I find them you shall be rewarded.”
Mrs. Miggs relaxed visibly. She had a wholesome respect for the police, and she did not doubt that Nevill was other than he purported to be—a Scotland Yard officer. She let him into the hall and closed the door.
“You can come up,” she said ungraciously, “but I don’t think there’s anything there.”
She lighted a candle and guided Nevill upstairs. He could scarcely restrain his excitement as he entered the little room. He glanced keenly about, noting the half-empty bottle of stout and the dirty glass.
“Did the police search here?” he inquired.
“Of course they did, but they didn’t find nothin’, ’cause there wasn’t anything to find. ’Awker was as poor as Job!”