“They examined his person?—his clothes, I mean?”
“Yes, an’ all they got was a knife, and a pistol, and some loose silver and coppers.”
“They didn’t discover any papers?”
“No; I’m sure o’ that,” asserted Mrs. Miggs. “I can’t stand ’ere all night,” she impatiently added.
Nevill took the hint, and set to work in good spirits. The landlady watched him scornfully while he hauled the carpet and bedding about, and examined all the joints of the few articles of furniture. He then proceeded—there was no fireplace in the room—to tap every part of the walls, and to try the flooring to see if any boards were loose. But the walls were solid and untampered with, and the nails in the floor had clearly not been disturbed for many years. He spent half an hour at his task, and the result was a barren failure. He realized that it would be useless to search further. He looked sharply at the landlady, and said, on a sudden impulse:
“You knew Mr. Hawker pretty well, I think. Perhaps he asked you to oblige him by taking care of the papers I am looking for; they could not possibly be of any advantage to you in the future, and if you have them I should be glad to buy them from you. I would give as much as—”
“I only wish I did ’ave them!” interrupted Mrs. Miggs. “I wouldn’t ’esitate a minute to turn ’em into money. But I don’t know nothin’ of them, sir, an’ you see yourself they ain’t ‘id in this room, an’ Mr. ’Awker never put foot in any other part of the ’ouse.”
The woman’s expression of disappointment, her manner, satisfied Nevill that his suspicion was baseless. There was nothing more to be done, so he gave Mrs. Miggs an additional half-sovereign, cautioned her not to speak of his visit, and left the house. His last state of mind was worse than his first, and dread of exposure, tormenting visions of a dreary and perpetual exile from England, not to speak of more bitter things, haunted him as he strode moodily toward the lights of the Kentish Town road.
“The papers may be in that room, hidden so securely as to baffle any search,” he said to himself, “and if that is the case there is still hope. But it is more likely that Hawker had them concealed under his clothing or in his boots. I will know in a day or two—if the police find them, they will make the matter public. All I can do is to wait. But the suspense is awful, and I wish it was over.”
The next day was cold, sunny and bracing—more like the end of February than the end of November. At nine o’clock in the morning Victor Nevill crawled out of bed after a troubled night; with haggard face and dull eyes he looked down into Jermyn street, wondering, as he recalled the events of the previous night, what another day would bring forth.
At the same hour, or a little later, Jimmie Drexell was at Hastings. Having to wait some time for another train, he walked through the pretty town to the sea, and the sight of its glorious beauty—the embodiment of untrammeled freedom—made him think sadly of poor Jack in a prison cell.