He kissed her passionately, and for a few moments they stood watching the incoming tide, and talking in a lighter vein. Then they parted, and Madge slipped away toward the old house with its guardian elm trees. The memory of her last words cheered Jack as he walked to the high-road and thence to his studio. Alphonse had prepared him a tempting little supper, and he did not go to town that night.
The next morning London awoke to a new sensation, which quite eclipsed the week-old theft of the Duchess of Hightower’s jewels and the recent mysterious murder at Hoxton. The news was at first meager and unsatisfactory, and contained little more in substance than was found in the big headlines and on the posters of the leading papers:
DARING ROBBERY AT LAMB AND DRUMMOND’S.
THE FAMOUS REMBRANDT CARRIED OFF—WATCHMAN BRUTALLY HANDLED.
The early journals had gone to press before a full report of the affair could reach them, but a detailed account appeared between ten and eleven o’clock in the first edition of the afternoon papers. The Rembrandt was gone—there was no doubt of it—and the story of its disappearance contained many dramatic elements. A curious crowd gathered about the premises of Lamb and Drummond on Pall Mall, to gaze at the now vacant window, and the services of a policeman were required to keep the sidewalk clear. Many persons recalled the similar case, some years before, of the Gainsborough portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire.
Mr. Lamb, it appeared, had been detained at his place of business until long after the closing hour, writing important letters. He left at nine o’clock, and Raper, the night watchman, fastened the street door behind him. During the night the policeman on duty in Pall Mall saw or heard nothing suspicious about the premises. The Rembrandt was on an easel in a large room back of the shop proper, and from it a rear door opened on a narrow paved passage leading to Crown Court; the inmates heard no noise in the night. At four o’clock in the morning a policeman, flashing his lantern in Crown Court, found a window open at the back of Lamb and Drummond’s premises. He entered at once. Inside the gas was burning dimly, and the watchman lay bound and gagged in a corner, with a strong odor of drugs mingling with his breath. The Rembrandt had been cut out of its frame and carried away.
“The robbery was evidently well-planned, and is enveloped in mystery,” said the St. James’ Gazette, “and the thieves left not the slightest clew. It is difficult to conceive their motive. They cannot hope at present to dispose of the picture, which is known by reputation in Europe and America, nor is it certain that they could safely realize on it after the lapse of years. The watchman, who has recovered consciousness, declared that he has no knowledge of how the thieves entered the building. It was about midnight, he states, when he was knocked down from behind. He remembers nothing after that.”