“That can’t make much difference to Hawker, and he knows it,” Sir Lucius replied. “It seems that he was really wanted for something more serious than failing to report himself to the police. In fact, as you will be surprised to learn, he is said to be mixed up in the robbery of the Rembrandt from Lamb and Drummond. His pal was arrested in Belgium, and has confessed. Hawker is aware that there is a clear case against him, and I understand that he has made some sensational disclosures. I heard this from the Governor of Pentonville, who happens to be an old friend of mine. He hinted that the matter was likely to be made public in a day or two.”
“Meaning the theft of the real Rembrandt,” said Jack. “I don’t suppose it will throw any light on the mystery of the duplicate one.”
“It may,” replied Sir Lucius; and he spoke more truly than he thought. Major Wyatt had been too discreet to tell all that he knew.
HOW THE DAY ENDED.
It was a day of strange events and sudden surprises. To Jack the propitious fates gave freedom and a relative whose existence he had never even suspected before; to Sir Lucius Chesney they brought a fresh interest in life, a nephew whom he was prepared to take to his heart. Let us see how certain others, closely connected with our story, fared before the day was ended.
Victor Nevill spent the afternoon at one of his clubs, where he won pretty heavily at cards and drank rather more brandy than he was accustomed to take. Feeling consequently in good spirits, he determined to carry out a plan that he had been pondering for some time. He left the club at six o’clock, and an hour later a cab put him down at the lower end of Strand-on-the-Green. Mrs. Sedgewick admitted him to Stephen Foster’s house. The master had not returned from town, she said, but Miss Foster was at home. Nevill asked to see her, and was shown into the drawing-room, where a couple of red-shaded lamps were burning. He was too restless to sit down, and, sauntering to the window, he drew aside the curtains and looked out at the river, with the lights from the railway bridge reflected on its dark surface.
“There is no reason why I shouldn’t do it—no reason why I should fear a refusal on her part,” he thought. “The clouds have blown over. Noah Hawker’s silence can be explained only in one way. The papers are hidden where he is certain that they cannot be found, and no doubt he intends to let the matter rest until he gets out of jail. As for Jack, it is not likely that he will ever learn the truth or cross my path again. The grave tells no secrets. I hope he will leave England when he is released. That will probably be to-day, since the real murderer has been found.”
He turned away from the window, and smiled complacently as he dropped into a big chair.
“Yes, I will do it,” he resolved. “I shall ask Madge to marry me within a fortnight or three weeks, and we will go down to Nice or Monte Carlo—I’ll risk taking half of that thousand pounds. I dare say my uncle will be a bit cut up when he hears the news; but I won’t tell him for a time, and after he sees my wife he will be only too eager to congratulate me. Any man might be proud of such—”