“I forgive you freely, Sir Lucius,” he said. “My mother wished me to bear you no malice, and I cannot disregard that.”
“God bless you, my boy,” replied Sir Lucius. “You have made me very happy.”
“Come, cheer up!” put in Jimmie. “This is an occasion for rejoicing. I have a bottle of champagne, and we’ll drink it to the health of the new heir.”
The wine was produced and opened, and Jack responded to the toast.
“There is one thing that puzzles me, Sir Lucius,” he said. “How did these papers come into your hands? They could not have been among my mother’s effects.”
“Are you aware,” replied Sir Lucius, “that on the night after your mother’s death her house in Bayswater was broken into by a burglar?”
“Yes; I remember that.”
“Well, the burglar carried off, among other things that were of little value, this packet of papers. He concealed them at his lodgings in Kentish Town, and he chose a curious and ingenious hiding-place—a recess behind a loose brick in the wall of the house, just below his window. Shortly afterward the rascal—his name was Noah Hawker—was caught at another crime, and sent to penal servitude for a term of years. On his release last spring, on ticket-of-leave, he went abroad, and when he returned to England several weeks ago he resurrected the papers from their place of security, studied them, and saw an opportunity for gain. He knew that they concerned three persons—you, Victor Nevill and myself—and he was cunning enough to start with Victor. He hunted him up and offered to sell the papers for a thousand pounds. My nephew agreed to buy them, intending to destroy them and thus retain his position as my sole heir—”
“Then Nevill knew who I was?” exclaimed Jack.
“Yes, he knew recently,” Sir Lucius replied. “I must break off to tell you that while I was abroad this summer, Victor promised, at my request, to try to trace your mother; but I am thoroughly convinced now that he made no effort whatever, and that he lied to me basely, with the hope of making me believe that the task was impossible. To proceed, the man Hawker was traced by the police, and arrested while awaiting the arrival of my nephew to complete the sale of the papers. He believed that Victor had betrayed him, and he determined to be revenged. So he confided in the Governor of Pentonville Prison, who went to the house in Kentish Town and found the papers. Then, at the prisoner’s earnest request, he sent for me this morning. I went to Pentonville and Hawker told me the whole story and gave me the papers. By the way, he knows you, my boy, and declares that you did him a kindness not long ago. It was at a night-club, I think, and you bandaged a wound on his head.”
“I remember!” exclaimed Jack. “By Jove, was that the man?”
“The fellow must have been intent on revenge,” said Jimmie, “to incriminate himself so deeply.”