But to Sir Lucius Chesney the world looked as black as midnight. He paced the floor of his room, purple of countenance and savage of eye, letting slip an occasional oath as he glanced at the sheets of Jimmie’s letter scattered over the table. The blow had hit him hard; it had wounded him in his most tender spot—his family honor. His first paroxysm of rage had passed, but he could not think calmly. His brain was on fire with pent-up emotions—shame and indignation, bitter grief and despair, a sense of everlasting disgrace. One moment he doubted; the next the damning truth overwhelmed him and defied denial.
“I can’t believe it!” he muttered hoarsely. “It is too terrible! How blindly I trusted that boy! I heard rumors about him, and turned a deaf ear to them. I knew he was inclined to be dissolute and extravagant, but I never dreamed of this! To drag the name of Chesney in the dirt! My nephew a liar and a traitor, a scoundrel of the blackest dye to a confiding friend, a seducer, a tout for money-lenders, a consort of blood-sucking Jews! By heavens, I will confront him and hear the truth from his own lips! How do I know that this letter is not a forgery? Perhaps young Drexell never saw it.”
It was a slim ray of hope, but Sir Lucius took some comfort from it. He put on his hat, took his stick, and marched down stairs. As he passed through the office, a clerk handed him a letter that had just been brought in. He waited until he was outside to open it, and with the utmost amazement he read the contents:
“My Dear Sir Lucius—I see by the papers that you are in town temporarily, so I address you at Morley’s instead of Priory Court. A very curious thing has happened. A few days ago a prisoner who was arrested for a breach of the police-supervision rules, but who was really wanted for a much more serious affair, was put in my charge. This man, Noah Hawker by name, sent for me and made a secret communication. He stated that in his room in Kentish Town, where he was arrested, he had hidden some papers of the greatest importance to yourself. He told me how to find them, and yesterday I got them and brought them here. They are in a sealed parcel, and the prisoner begs that they shall not be opened except in your presence, as he wishes to tell you the whole story. So I thought it best to send for you, and if convenient I should like to see you about noon to-day. I am posting this early in the morning, and hope you will receive it in good time.
“Sincerely your old friend,
“Major Hugh Wyatt.”
“I don’t understand it,” thought Sir Lucius. “It is certainly most perplexing. What can it mean? I haven’t seen Wyatt for years, but I remember now that he was appointed Governor of Pentonville some time ago. But who the deuce is the man Hawker? I never heard the name. Papers of importance to me? What could they be, and how did the fellow get them? There must be some mistake. And yet—”