The Globe’s account was more sensational. “It has come to light,” wrote the enterprising reporter, “that Raper, the watchman, was in the habit of slipping out to the Leather Bottle, on Crown Court, for a drink at ten o’clock every evening, and leaving the back door of the shop unlocked. He came into the private bar at the usual time last night, and remained for twenty minutes. He drank a pint of ale, and was seen conversing with a shabbily dressed stranger, whose face was unfamiliar to the publican and the barmaid. This incident suggests two theories. Did the affable stranger drug Raper’s beer, and, at a later hour of the night, while the watchman was in a stupor, force the window with one or more companions and carry off the Rembrandt? Or was the watchman in the plot? Did the thieves slip into the building while he was in the Leather Bottle, and subsequently bind, gag and drug him, and force open the window from the outside, in order to screen him from the suspicions of his employers? We learn that Raper has been suspended from his position, pending an investigation. Mr. Lamb informs us that the Rembrandt was insured against fire and burglary for the sum of ten thousand guineas. The company is the Mutual, and they are sure to do all in their power to apprehend the thieves and save themselves from such a heavy loss.”
Such was the gist of the newspaper accounts of the puzzling affair. And now to see how they affected certain individuals who are not strangers to the reader.
A MYSTERIOUS DISCOVERY.
Stephen Foster sat in his office at No. 320 Wardour street, with half a dozen of the morning and afternoon papers scattered about his desk. It was two o’clock, but he had not gone out to lunch, and it had not occurred to him that the usual hour for it was past. Footsteps came down the length of the shop, and Victor Nevill opened the door. He closed it quickly behind him as he entered the room; his face expressed extreme agitation, and he looked like a man who has spent a sleepless night.
“You have seen them?” he exclaimed, pointing to the papers. “You have read the different accounts?”
“Yes, I have read them—that is all. They tell me nothing. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I bought a Telegraph at Gunnersbury station this morning, and saw the headlines.”
“And I first heard of it at breakfast—I got up rather late. I opened the Globe and there it was, staring me in the eyes. It knocked my appetite, I can assure you. What do you make of it?”
“It’s a mystery,” replied Stephen Foster, “and I am all in the dark about it. Devilish unfortunate, I call it.”
“Right you are! And it’s more than that. You have seen the Globe?”
“Yes; here it is.”
“Did you know that the picture was insured?”
“I judged that it was, but the fact was quite unimportant.”